Congleton café to become theatre as 'Girl in Isolation' play premieres this weekend

By Alex Greensmith

8th Oct 2021 | Local News

A play inspired by loneliness during lockdown will be performed at a Congleton community café.

Girl in Isolation will have a two day run The Old Saw Mill on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th October.

The one hour show is by Congleton company West Kingston Productions - and is made possible by writer Lesley Creasser Guymer and music by Jack Mitchell Smith.

The play has just one character - young adult Sally Whittaker (Shannon Kirrane) - who lives on her own for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown, and how it affects her.

Culture at The Old Saw Mill: The Back River Street café will host a play this weekend, by local creatives Jack Mitchell Smith and Lesley Creasser Guymer.

Their production company was formed just before the first lockdown, so when it came to their first post-COVID production. It seemed only apt to look back and draw art from these troubled times.

"It was created with a need to bring theatre back, I started writing it at the beginning of July," said Congleton playwright Lesley.

"Being an older person, the concentration on old people and loneliness [in lockdown] and their plight struck me.

"But then I realised at the other end of the spectrum was young adults - where their loneliness during lockdown seemed to be ignored.

North west actress Shannon Kirrane in character as lonesome lockdowner Sally Whittaker.

"[The discourse around] it seemed to be abandoned. I spoke to a young professional lady I know who during lockdown in the city was on her own, and would actually shout out in her apartment just to hear a human voice. That was quite an inspiration for us.

"I won't spoil too much but it was an inspiration for a plot in our play where our character drives the police up the wall for a start!

"The play is a mixture of sadness, humour, and the isolation."

Tickets for Girl in Isolation cost just £16, and for that price there is the inclusion of a gorgeous home cooked meal by the Back River Street café.

The £16 ticket price for the play will include a main meal and dessert. Peter Aston (centre) let Lesley and Jack use their premises for the play for free.

There will be a main meal served, then the production will follow, with no interval. Following the conclusion of the play, there will be desert and coffee.

Despite catering for the event, Peter Aston of The Old Saw Mill has generously allowed the playmakers to use the space for free, supporting Congleton culture.

Peter said: "I think in every sense of the word the whole thing - you guys and the café together - in such an innovative way is fantastic given the background of the pandemic."

"It is a beautiful way of expressing the challenges that everyone has been through, by working together."

The stage will take place in the centre of the cafe, which already partially looks like an apartment.

The Old Saw Mill will be selling their renowned cider from fallen Congleton apples, as well as other drinks to go with Girl in Isolation.

Jack Mitchell Smith has written songs for the production, and will be playing piano off-stage.

I am a musician I specialise in piano and a writer. But also a co-founder of the small company West Kingston Productions with Lesley," said Jack.

"Me and Lesley met at a standard job at Waters Green Medical Centre on reception.

Congleton: We have also included a teaser of Sally - the show's main character - as a video above.

"Lesley was doing that as a retirement job and I was doing that as my main job after leaving school.

"It was a bit of a mismatch really because we were both very creative but in completely different fields.

"So Lesley was big into literature and especially poetry. That was her main thing. But with me it was with music. And Lesley's interest was much less with music. Lesley had never written lyrics or a play. She works on poetry and small novels.

"So that was 12 years ago when we met. And we worked on a project together soon after we met. But this is our first play.

"The play has five songs I've composed - one of which is a sort of rap. Lesley has done the lyrics."

After Girl in Isolation, the dynamic duo are working on a concept album.

"There's 40 years between us and we are a great pair," Lesley added about Jack.

"I have two other sons but I say Jack is my third."

Ironically - given the play's subject matter regarding social distancing - Girl in Isolation will take place in a stage just two metres wide.

It will be lit by The Old Saw Mill's fairy lights, which are already a feature of the cozy café.

Mental health charity MIND has given their thumbs up for Girl in Isolation, for the positive message it spreads.

You can buy tickets for this Friday's performances of Girl in Isolation here.

Saturday tickets are here.

But be quick Congleton, due to the meals being served and the café serving as the theatre, capacity is limited to 30 people.

You can learn more about Girl in Isolation and West Kingston Productions here.

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