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Jonathan Blakeley (Stitches)

Stitches is an emotive and wistful play that examines how relationships change the older we become and the fight for significance, and is told from the perspective of a teddy bear. Written by Jonathan Blakeley and directed by Samantha Pears, the show runs at The Hope Theatre until 9th March. We spoke to writer Jonathan to tell us more about Stitches.

Q) Firstly, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about Stitches?

I’m an actor/writer from just outside of Southend in Essex, now living in London, who trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, graduating in 2010! Stitches is my second written piece for stage, my first being In Pursuit of Andromeda back in 2018 that opened at Theatre 503 before spending a month up at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. However, Stitches is my first attempt at writing a solo piece for stage which has certainly been an eye opening experience in terms of tackling the logistics of solo stage plays.

Q) What was your inspiration for writing this piece of theatre?

I’ve always been inspired by stories told from perspectives of which we know little to nothing about. I find the scale and scope of creativity and storytelling to be vast and therefore exciting, which can really engage an audience by getting them to think in a completely different way about the themes of the piece and reflect on them in a different light entirely. Therefore, life viewed through the lens of a teddy bear, I think, is one that both intrigues and excites an audience, it certainly has done with those who’ve already been part of our audiences.

Q) The story of Stitches comes from the unique perspective of a teddy bear. What is the significance

of this?

A teddy bear (or comfort item of any kind whether that be a doll, action figure, blanket etc) I’ve always

considered to be our earliest friend and confidant. We confide all of our trust and love into them, with the full expectancy of receiving it fully back. These items are also something that I both feel and know a very large majority of us have experienced owning in our own lives. Reflectively, from an audience perspective, there is a strength in the significance of this, and when drawing upon own experiences of our own growing up and understanding our own places in the everyday. The response from audiences so far has been amazing and enriching. Speaking with them afterwards either in the bar or on social media about their own childhood comfort items, and sadly how many of them are in an unknown place!

Q) This is a one-hander play. How have you found the whole process of writing the piece to putting it

on stage?

The actual writing of the play I found to be the most challenging part of the whole process, not because I didn’t know what to write about, but more so how I wanted the piece to communicate to an audience being a one-hander. I read a lot of very different solo shows to see what the communicative language of those plays were (to name but a few - Dust by Mill Thomas, Peddling by Harry Melling and Captain Amazing by Alistair McDowall) and found the pieces so varying that it filled me with the confidence that the only correct way to approach this story is my own way. Once I got past that initial hurdle the rest of it fell into place.

Q) What challenges have you faced whilst writing and performing this one-hander play?

The main challenge has been the ways in which to communicate both verbally and physically the various characters in the play, for which there are quite a few (I think something like 14...). I think it’s so important that one-hander plays address the audience as much as possible because effectively

they’re such an important part of the progression of the story. You have to take them on the journey with you every step of the way. The bear acts as the narrator for the piece, engaging with the audience continuously, whereas the others characters live on through the gaze of the bear within the various moments of the play and Chloe’s life, Chloe being the child the bear belongs to. So to physically and verbally find all those characters by giving them clarity and truth, especially the female characters, was something that both the director Samantha Pears and the movement practitioner Charlotte Taylor really had to work with on me as the performer.

Q) What are you hoping that audiences take away from this piece of theatre?

A few relatable laughs. A few reflective grimaces. And even though we may sometimes feel we’re alone in the challenges we face, the ones who truly love us will always be there, no matter how small they are... That and the need to run home and give their bear a big hug.

Q) Why should audiences come along to see Stitches?

Because I really do believe that there is something for everyone in this play. As said above, a large amount of us out there grew up with comfort items in our lives and will be able to relate and reflect upon this in our own wonderful and unique ways. The play also opens up on the themes of the way women are treated when both developing, and how they’re seen/shaped by the world around them. As well as the theme of how to approach and love those with Dementia, with many audience members feeling a great sense of comfort, hope and love when reflecting upon their own experiences of caring for those with the condition, whether those loved ones are still with us or sadly no longer. After all, that’s what theatre is all about isn’t it? A mirror being held up to society.

Stitches is proud to be in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Society and the University of Stirling's Dementia Services Developmental centre, and Blakeley has been running storytelling workshops with the society to find out the ways in which art can unlock memories. Stitches is nearing its run at the Hope Theatre, with its final performance on 9th March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


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