Schism at Park Theatre
A dark drama with an important message becomes Park Theatre’s latest hit show.
Schism is written by and stars Athena Stevens. It begins with Harrison, a failed-architect-turned-maths-teacher attempting suicide when he is interrupted by a young teenager breaking into his house. The play is his story of what happened over the next 20 years, the relationship that blossomed and the chaos it sunk into.
Stevens plays Katherine DeWitt, a young girl who isn’t getting the level of education she is entitled to from Harrison’s school. She sets out to convince him to put her in his class. The teacher helps her to get into college and she ultimately becomes more successful than he ever was.
Katherine is a woman. Worse, she is a disabled woman, making the production uncomfortable to watch. Which seems to be Stevens’s point. It’s not because she’s disabled; it’s because she doesn’t fit into the box she’s mean to be in. Society says that this character is not allowed to be successful and certainly not more successful than the white, able-bodied man. Thus the piece is uncomfortable. Many will think that’s an old-fashioned statement, or that it doesn’t apply to them. But even, and perhaps especially, the most liberal audiences will find their attitudes challenged by this play.
Jonathan McGuiness is perfectly cast as the protagonist. He brings the character to life as a deeply lovable man. Harrison is everyone’s favourite teacher from school (also a testament to Stevens’s writing). And because he is narrating the story, the audience feels like they are on his side. This creates more tension and discomfort.
The playwright claims that this is not a play “about a woman overcoming her disability,” but that it concerns “a woman overcoming a man”, and the dramatist traps the audience in a place where that becomes the most uncomfortable truth to accept – but there is no choice but to accept it.
Schism is a stunning play by a talented author and both Stevens and McGuiness give brilliant performances. It will rightfully challenge everyone who sees it.
Schism is at Park Theatre from 16th May until 19th June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.