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.