Imagine If

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This play follows the traumatic and tumultuous dynamics of an abusive relationship between a young couple from Leeds, Rosa and Niko, played by Francesca Joy and Prince Plockey with Ursula Mohan playing Rosa’s Grandma, Lily.

From the start of the play the audience is gripped in the thrilling rapture, observing what feels initially like the innocent intensity of a new love connection.

Joy and Plockey play the characters Rosa and Niko with eerie precision showing the quick shift from the hedonistic connection to dangerous liaison. With intelligent choreography, set, lighting, and musical score designed to seize your attention as you bear witness to the intense sexual tension between Niko and Rosa.

You are swiftly led into the darker deepening spiral of a co-dependent relationship, in which both Niko and Rosa become isolated into a world marked by equal amounts of sudden bursts of passion and violence. This leaves you questioning how to think and feel. Read more here…

Imagine If’s You Forgot the Mince presents a moving descent into an abusive relationship. ‘Love Me Tender’ by Elvis Presley ominously plays as we enter the space, setting the tone for this 60-minute piece that explores insecurities, violence and what it means to be in love with someone.

This ‘boy meets girl’ tale is set in Leeds, where Rosa (Francesca Joy) lives with her Grandma Lily (Ursula Mohan) when a window salesman called Niko (Prince Plockey) visits them. Their meeting leads to them becoming involved in a whirlwind romance that occurs alongside Rosa gearing up to attend university in London, something that kickstarts Niko’s insecurities. The chemistry between Joy and Plockey is electric, leading to fast-paced transitions and sleek physical theatre, however both actors also fall into the trap of not quite letting moments land with the audience, as often a passionate performance instantly follows a subdued one, something that is possibly out of fear of there being a lack of action. This being said, Plockey has a very clear score of movement within himself, as well as the other actors, and Mohan is charming as the ever so endearing grandmother. There is a subtlety to Mohan’s well- rounded performance and she often kisses her locket when reminiscing about her deceased husband, a small but important detail that makes this character believable. It is not a defining moment in the scene, but there is something about the character’s habit that stands out as being something she does automatically. Although this is a story of domestic violence, it is done artfully, with one stand out scene being where Rosa and Niko are sat side by side, simply describing with chilling calmness, the fight they are having to the audience which suggests that this is not a spontaneous struggle and that both characters have the ability to be cold and calculating.

As this is a touring production, the set, designed by Rebecca Brower, is minimal, with a metal bar frame in the shape of a house making up the main layout of the space, with the actors bringing in and out elements of furniture such as a table, chairs, a mattress and a bench. With the transitions being so fast, location is suggested by using framed pictures that are lit up when needed. For example, to show the audience that the scene is taking place in their home, a photo of a cup of tea being made is lit by one of the actors and in turn, when we are in London, a photo of a bus is lit. Ed Clarke uses sound design to create a feeling of tension by playing bass-heavy, short beats between scene changes, and Zia Bergin Holly’s placement of lighting effortlessly works with the space and emotion of each moment.

You Forgot the Mince is an insightful look at what makes people act and react the way they do, the struggle for power in their relationships with others and how we let people’s treatment of us influence how we treat one another.

Amazingly thought-provoking, powerful and emotional, You Forgot The Mince was performed in Swindon on Saturday at the intimate Shoebox Theatre.

Theatre company and registered charity Imagine If was behind this production, which took us on a raw and honest journey between two young people, showing how their love for one another turned sour.

The play was inspired by real life events and told the tale of a modern abusive relationship.

Set in Leeds and starring only three performers, all of whom were sensational, it grabbed me from the very start and didn’t let any of the small audience go until the very last word.

Written by Francesca Joy, who also performed the part of young Rosa, it was sassy as well as serious; humorous as well as heartbreaking.

Francesca is a fantastic actress with the sort of presence that commands your focus and her portrayal of a young girl who fell head over heels in love with Niko was completely believable.

Inseparable from the word go, their passion for one another is tested when Rosa gets a place at a university in London.

Niko ends up in prison and Rosa’s grandmother Lily is being kept completely in the dark about the sinister turn this young relationship starts to take.

Prince Plockey played unstable yet likeable Niko; a fantastic actor. His occasional poetic monologues throughout the performance were both flawless and breathtakingly impressive. He’s going places and is definitely one to watch.

This is a tale of domestic violence and the cycle of forgiveness that inevitably leads to constant repetition of disgraceful behaviour. Imagine If has toured this production around prisons as well as theatres to educate people about the impact these relationships can have.

The overwhelming message is that violence breeds violence and it’s a cycle that churns into motion before you even know what’s happening.

You Forgot The Mince is a brave piece of theatre. We all know that dark issues exist in our society but so many people prefer to turn a blind eye.

While it might make us uncomfortable to witness such life-like trauma, it’s exactly what is needed to make a difference.

The last time I left the theatre completely overwhelmed was in 2014 after National Theatre’s The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable.

For their latest production Leeds-based production company Imagine If operate on much a smaller scale than the National Theatre, so you can imagine my jubilation when I was left stunned by a cast of three at Swindon’s Shoebox Theatre.

You Forgot the Mince is a ground-breaking production which delves into, and explores, the complexities of abusive relationships.

Writer and actor Francesca Joy plays Rosa; she’s bright, animated and fresh out of college with endless prospects. Living with her Nan, Lily (Ursula Mohan), Rosa’s sweet and seemingly head strong until she meets Niko (Prince Plockey).

Niko’s a window salesman working off commission and undoubtedly a rough diamond. A love story quickly ignites between Rosa and Niko which then alters the course of the characters’ identity and engagement with each other.

You Forgot the Mince is an intellectual depiction of modern day relationships that turns social science into immersive theatre, whereby a young romance descends into a psychological display of miscommunication and manipulation.

Based on real events, with extensive research on offenders in prison and abuse, the story is incredibly hard hitting – I’m still recovering from Friday. I can’t stop thinking about it!

On writing the play, Francesca Joy said: “You Forgot the Mince is a story about what we do to protect those around us and how we fuck them up in the process. It is about real people and the journeys they choose to go on in life. How we love and how we hurt. ”

A primary example of this exploration can be seen by Niko. Niko is the product of a broken family which lands him in prison for attempted theft and handling of stolen goods. Through his intense monologues you can see how Niko’s trying to evolve but, as the monologues so strategically highlight, his internal struggles are never communicated to Rosa. This in turn results in agitation and violence.

What is so heartbreaking is the way in which Niko’s behaviour effects Rosa which, like a morbid domino effect, then alters her character and her relationship with her Nan.

It’s so powerful how three characters are able to convey and demonstrate how a toxic relationship effects those who are outside of it as well, like Lily.

Lily has her own demons. Clearly distressed by the loss of her daughter, Rosa’s mum, Lily fills her time baking cakes with an outward naivety that everything is okay. Add in the abuse that Rosa encounters, Lily becomes a target for Rosa’s lack of control and power which she lost to Niko. Portraying how tangled the roles become, the abusee becomes the abuser.

Almost as remarkable as the story itself, what was also extraordinary was the way in which Imagine If utilised the space of the Shoebox Theatre. If you haven’t visited the Shoebox, the clue’s in the title. Within 70 minutes the audience are taken from Leeds to London, then prison to Lily’s house. Immersed in winter and water fights, it was hard not to be engrossed by all three performances and ultimately highly impacted by their stories.

I agree with The State of the Arts comments, reviewing You Forgot the Mince as a: “Deeply moving and dynamic piece of cutting-edge theatre.”

Touring throughout theatres and prisons, I must implore anyone to witness this engaging and captivating production.

5-star Review

Imagine If’s production ‘You Forgot the Mince’ is the thought-provoking play, written by Leeds theatre maker Francesca Joy, that explores a modern-day abusive relationship. ‘You Forgot the Mince’ is mid UK tour and has recently had a successful month long run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The 70-minute long drama begins at a house in Leeds, where the 19-year-old Rosa lives with her grandma, Lily (Ursula Mohan) since her troubled mother Claire died some 3 years back. Rosa (played by Francesca Joy) is a bright young woman preparing to leave her home city of Leeds and go off to university in London. Niko (Prince Plockey) is a door-to-door window salesman surviving on commission, who infiltrates their lives after coercing Rosa to accept a ‘free, no obligation consultation’. Just as Rosa is looking forward to an exciting new future at University in London and living in Camden, she falls head over heels in love with the local lad Niko (who never made it past year 9 at school).

What follows is the couple’s tumble into love, which is charmingly portrayed in script and movement. The superb mix of physical theatre and original script brings Rosa and Niko’s story to life from the first flush of young love, to surviving separation as Niko is imprisoned for 12 months for attempted burglary and handling of stolen goods, to moving in together, to the inevitable first argument about buying the wrong cakes for Uncles Keith’s party.

However, it gradually transpires that their relationship is complex, weighed down by layers of hurt and vulnerability on both sides, and soon spirals into destruction and chaos. Meanwhile Lily is trying to get over the loss of her daughter by baking cakes and not really talking about her grief and loss, until Mick from the stroke foundation gradually helps with the healing process.

It’s clear that ‘You Forgot the Mince’ is a brilliant piece of theatre that is a true representation of the grit of real-life, and all three cast members gave outstanding heart felt, convincing performances tonight. Francesca Joy spent time in refuges and prisons as part of her research when creating the play and as a result the play is rich and very believable.

‘You Forgot the Mince’ has toured prisons across the country, (5 male prisons, and 1 female prison), performing to roughly 100 inmates per visit, who are incarcerated as a result of violent relationships. Francesca Joy in the Q&A’s after the show stated that she hopes that the play will inspire change and make a difference; and there’s no doubt it can. The show is deeply moving and hard hitting and I am sure the content resonated with the majority of tonight’s audience judging by the palpable emotion in the auditorium.

Imagine If Theatre Company was created 3 years ago and is not co-funded so sadly has its financial limitations to delivering this play free of charge to the people who need to see it most (inmates, young adults in schools, Domestic violence perpetrator programmes and women trying to break free from the cycle of abuse). I personally think this play has the potential to influence and educate those abused and abusers: current, past and would-be. The Office of National Statistics reported that last year domestic abuse in England and Wales was experienced by an estimated 2.0 million adults aged 16 to 59, equating to a prevalence rate of 6 in 100 adults. With statistic so high in this country this show has the potential to initiate a real change. ‘You Forgot the Mince’ is ground-breaking, cutting edge and poignant and in my opinion was without a doubt worthy of a 5 star rating and should not be missed.

To find out more about the show and its tour dates or even to donate to ensure funding continues to get this play out to those who will benefit from seeing it, visit www.imagineiftheatre.co.uk.

4-star Review

Imagine If’s latest production You Forgot The Mince tells the story of a modern day abusive relationship. It’s a bleak reality for all too many, but the show is shot through with a warmth that belies the subject matter.

The hour long drama begins at a house in Leeds, where nineteen year old Rosa lives with her grandma, Lily. Niko (Prince Plockey) is a door-to-door window salesman surviving on commission. His cajoling of Rosa – by turns playful, then less so – to accept the ‘free, no obligation consultation’ is the first hint of a tendency to coercion.

What follows is the couple’s tumble into love, which is beautifully choreographed in script and movement. The mish-mash of physical theatre with verbatim and original text brings Rosa and Niko’s story to life – from the first flush, to moving in together, to the inevitable arguments about who bought the wrong cakes at the supermarket. Another time-lapse style sequence conveys Niko’s descent into jealousy and abuse. Violence is followed by blame (‘look what you made me do’) then shame (I’ll never do it again’). The cycle is real, and we’ve seen it portrayed in soap opera abuse storylines. Yet the physicality of the performances and the nuance in the writing make it all feel heartbreakingly new.

The scripting is as sharp as the performances. Francesca Joy (who also takes the lead as Rosa) has an obvious talent for creating poignancy from the ordinary, as the play’s title suggests. At one point, Rosa turns to the audience to say of Niko: ‘he doesn’t love me like grown-ups do. He loves me for real’. It’s convincing dialogue, and serves to remind us that passion and danger are easily conflated when you’re nineteen. Grandma Lily’s reminiscences about the civility of ‘courting’ in her day might look like a sensible counterweight at first, but she has demons of her own. Lily’s bottled-up pain is deftly played by Ursula Mohan.

It’s clear that You forgot the mince is forged from the grit of real-life. Joy has experienced abuse herself, and spent time in refuges and prisons as part of her research. The play will tour prisons across the country in the autumn. That a fast-moving, 60 minute piece manages to capture the creeping nature of relationship abuse – and its legacy – through characters you are invested in, is a feat. Joy says she hopes the play will inspire change, and there’s no doubt it can, if it gets the audience it deserves.

Summary – 4 stars: ‘Domestic abuse show shocks and informs in equal measure’

There are so many shows at every Edinburgh Fringe that one might band together as ‘issue’ plays – productions that look at a problem in society, and make a play about it. This year I’ve been thinking about this a lot; about what the purpose of this is, about who we are making this art for, and about whether or not we should be making it at all. Imagine If Theatre’s production of You Forgot The Mince sets all of these issues aside. The play is a harrowing tale about domestic abuse and the way relationships can shatter out of our control, and alongside their Fringe show, the company are also raising money for a run in male prisons. Their money is clearly where their mouth is.

The piece segues effortlessly between beauty and terror, the script as smooth and changeable as the actors’ bodies. Francesca Joy (writer and performer) took us inside the mind of both abuser and abused, and there was potential to truly understand why victims stay with their abusers at all. We laughed and cried (and at one point my heart jolted in my ears) just as much as Rosa did. When Rosa told us that she couldn’t leave Niko because she loved him, we fully believed her. The actors’ movement and vocal control worked perfectly alongside the script, bringing to life both the poetic and the bare parts of Joy’s writing.

There were a couple of unnecessary pieces on the set – light up pictures were (I think) supposed to inform us of geographical location, but they weren’t really needed, and while they didn’t distract from the action for the audience, gave the actors too much work. Yet the rest of the design was gorgeous and perfect for the show – the skeleton of the room, simultaneously evocative of a prison and a home, and this careful balance was also maintained by the lighting and sound.

This show invites you in, and then pulls the rug from under your feet. We are fully and fearfully immersed into the mind of a victim of domestic abuse, and in a way that remains a commendable piece of art. This is a theatre company that clearly cares not just about the story it is telling, but that it is told well.

Verdict – 4 stars: Passionate performances and slick staging elevate this story of domestic abuse

Starkly examining an abusive, co-dependent relationship, You Forgot the Mince is a grim and affecting story lifted by moments of real warmth. Inspired by research, verbatim accounts and writer Francesca Joy’s own experiences, the play follows teenagers Rosa and Niko, who become trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of love and hate.

Joy’s script sketches out the story in a flurry of short scenes. While this brevity can feel simplistic, truthful details and flashes of blank poetry make each sequence resonant. As Rosa, Joy shares a remarkable, effervescent chemistry with Prince Plockey’s sweet but unstable Niko, making their romance believable and their suffocating need for one another entirely convincing.

Director Stephen Whitson’s frenetic staging makes each rapid scene change part of the action. Stylised movement work blurs the lines between loving, playful and threatening gestures, elegantly reflecting the characters’ destructive spirals.

Ed Clarke’s score features deep heartbeat throbs and jarring electric squeals, creating an unsettling undercurrent which persists even through the happier sequences. The evocative set, by Rebecca Brower, presents the silhouette of a house built from rusted wire, a stand-in for the literal prison where Niko briefly finds himself, and the metaphorical prison his home later becomes.

A RAW, compelling drama about domestic violence, developed in consultation with people involved in abusive relationships, is staged in Bradford next week.

You Forgot the Mince is a powerful portrait of an intense, passionate and ultimately abusive relationship that spirals out of control.

It is the debut play by Yorkshire writer Francesca Joy, who spent two years researching and developing it. Her research included interviews with victims of domestic abuse and she attended focus groups with former offenders and counselling groups with men who have a history of violence against women. She also spoke to prisoners, prison officers and probation workers, and did a week-long training course with Safe Ground at the National Offender Management Unit. Read on…

Imagine If are a company with their heart on the beat of the things that make the genre so vital: realistic, frenetic, candid and well-observed – a resounding success.

Imagine If’s You Forgot the Mince is a deeply moving and dynamic piece of cutting-edge theatre. Francesca Joy’s remarkably realistic performance as a fiery but also naïve student begins in her grandma’s’s home when a door-to-door salesman charms her with his spiel. This is Niko (Ashley Gerlach) who is a lovable rogue who hides his darker side (that includes petty crime and his mother’s crack cocaine habit) preferring to rely on his handsome good looks and fine masculine figure to win a chance with Rosa. Read on…

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