Shining a light on men’s mental health – new play

An important new play by Nicci Hopson, director of Ariel Company Theatre, will shine a light on men’s mental health.
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After a successful debut in Hurstpierpoint last year, Barnet Hawks now comes to the Capitol in Horsham for performances on Friday, May 31 at 7.30pm and Saturday, June 1 at 7.30pm. Nicci is promising an original and inspirational musical comedy-drama that centres around nine men and their personal stories. “Based in the unlikely setting of the changing room of a less-than-average football team, they reveal their fears, worries and dreams. Their earthy, humorous banter lays bare intimate secrets about their feelings and behaviours towards women, each other and society.”

Providing the musical backdrop are hit songs from Tom Jones, Billy Joel, Queen, The Greatest Showman and many more while the play itself explores issues of depression, social isolation, bullying, abuse and homophobia in what Nicci promises will be a “sensitive, yet quick-witted and fast-paced way.” The production finishes on a high note of forgiveness, remorse, and repentance, Nicci says.

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“I wrote it during Covid and the reason was that as a child I'd always been mindful that men don't talk and that while women go out in social groups they always come back feeling a lot better... but men just don't talk in that same way. Men go out and they will say very little. They go out but they won't talk about the things that matter and I think being in Covid exacerbated that whole thing. The sense of community went, and the little things that men do like going to the pub were taken away from them. So I wanted to look at that whole issue and do an all-male play. But I wanted to go into it through the medium of comedy because comedy can be the best way of tackling something that is so dark. If you can laugh at yourself and see yourself, then it can certainly help. And I wanted real men with real problems. It’s about an incredibly-rubbish football team and they meet up every Thursday evening. They are friends but in a quite superficial way to begin with but like an onion, the layers peel away and they discover lots about each other and by the end of the play, they're much more open with each other and much more supportive of each other.

Nicci Hopson (contributed pic)Nicci Hopson (contributed pic)
Nicci Hopson (contributed pic)

“The cast are aged 19 to 65 and I chose my actors from performers in the local area. I wrote it for them and that made it a joy. I knew the men and I knew what they're capable of as performers and I chose them well but the roles that they are acting are very different to the characters they actually are. I have a great actor who is the loveliest man in the world but I have made him a bigoted homophobic nasty piece of work in this piece. I've got my actors really stretching themselves as performers. We workshopped it. I had the script and I saw that as the template and we workshopped for four or five weeks. I'm a woman. How would I know how men tick? We ended up exploring all that side of it. And the message in the end is just to reach out to people. Even if someone seems to be OK, then just ask that extra question and ask them are they really OK. It's also about understanding the sense of community that we need, understanding how community can be a force for the greater good. It’s a football team but it could be a walking club or a running club. It's just about community and how we need that extra sense of community. You read that suicide for men under 45 is the biggest killer and you think the government would be doing something about it but in fact it just really relies on us to do something about it and that's what I want this play to help do.”

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