Ravenscourt at Hampstead Theatre
Mental health issues are at an all-time high. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the current cost of living crisis have all heightened our focus on mental wellbeing – particularly in those who were already vulnerable. Most people are aware of how cripplingly overburdened the NHS is. Writer Georgina Burns is a qualified psychotherapist and therefore well placed to put her subject on stage; it helps that she’s also a gifted storyteller. Ravenscourt marks her first play, which was developed as part of Hampstead Theatre’s Inspire scheme for emerging playwrights.
Lydia (Lizzy Watts), like most who work in health care, is determined to make a difference. One of her patients, Daniel, is battling depression. He has been all but written off, after spending years in and out of treatment. When Lydia starts to get through to him, she of course feels her decision to leave the private sector and join Ravenscourt was the right one. However, it isn’t long before she receives a reality check and realises the system she has found herself in is broken.
Watts offers a convincing performance as she gradually reveals who her character is and what she wants to achieve. She is suitably complemented by Josef Davies’s Daniel. The actor embodies a tremendous amount in a portrayal that showcases someone deeply consumed by both anger and vulnerability.
Director Tessa Walker draws the best from the remainder of her talented cast and the production – running at an hour and a half – is appropriately paced. There is a pleasing amount of humour to balance light and shade while remaining sensitive to the subject matter. Debbie Duru’s set, which allows for multiple parts of the facility to be revealed, is also very effective.
Emotionally compelling, Ravenscourt might not be the most original offering of theatre, but its timing could not be more pertinent. An important reminder of those who struggle, even when they are supposed to be the ones offering care, this is an assured debut that promises exciting things ahead for Burns.
Photo: Robert Day
Ravenscourt is at Hampstead Theatre from 23rd September until 29th October 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a behind-the-scenes video about the production here: