A manifesto for the shy hits the stage

A new one-man play The Shy Manifesto, written by Michael Ross, plays Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday, February 20.

The Shy Manifesto
The Shy Manifesto

It offers a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy drama about a shy boy who has had enough of constantly being told to come out of his shell.

17-year-old Callum is proud to be shy and he thinks you should be too, because what this noisy, crazy world really needs right now is some more self-restraint.

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Callum delivers his manifesto, exploring adolescence, isolation, self-loathing and sexuality and encourages his audience of radical shy comrades to finally rise up and inherit the earth.

However, will memories of the previous night’s drunken escapades at a classmate’s end-of-term party upend the fragile identity he has created for himself?

Theo Ancient is playing Callum plus a host of other characters in the one-man show – quite a challenge in itself.

“But really the most important thing in a one-man show is to build up a relationship with the au-dience,” Theo says. “It is the first time I have done this, and obviously usually you have got other actors to bounce off, but in a one-man show it is almost like the audience becomes the other actors. Your relationship with the audience becomes really important.”

As for the play, it is a play about identity, Theo says: “It is all about being shy. Callum is on a journey having to deal with his shyness. And so he starts his manifesto where he wants people to be proud of being shy and recognise that shyness is not a weakness, to encourage people to see shyness as a strength. It is a play about self-acceptance, about accepting who you are. He comes to accept his introversion and realises that you can still have a good life.”

People are always telling him to come out of his shell: “And he has a wonderful line where he says that the people sitting next to him in class would not have been able to pick him out of a police line-up.”

But that’s fine.

“It’s a play about human nature, something that everybody can relate to. At some point in every-one’s life someone will have said ‘Come on, don’t be shy.’ Everyone will have had that moment where they are in a group of people and don’t know what to say or they are at a party and they are thinking that they would rather be anywhere else rather than there.

“Callum addresses that shyness. He is 17, but everyone will be able to relate to it. I think older people will relate to it too. There is a wonderful section at the end of the play where he imagines what he might be like in 20-30 years time.

“What is good about being shy is owning that shyness and being comfortable with that shyness. A lot of people feel that they need to break out of their shyness, but one of the good things about being shy is that Callum is a great observer of everything around him. He is a writer. What is wonderful about shy and introverted people is that they can find outlets for their creativity like writing or acting…”

Alongside the show, the producers are offering workshop sessions facilitated by Theo. Theo has more than six years’ experience running workshops and education programmes, and he feels passionately about bringing drama opportunities to all young people, especially those living in hard-to-reach areas. These workshop sessions can cater for a range of ages and/or examination boards to ensure they meet the aims of the curriculum.