Tuesday 14th June 2022 at the King’s Head Theatre, London.
Reviewer: Maygan Forbes
Where do you stand when your therapist needs therapy? Let’s Pause There is the story of therapist Sebastian (played by Roger Parkins) who within 24 hours has taken on two new clients, had a problematic encounter with a douchebag on the tube, and bumped into his ignorant ex wife. It’s a combination that would give anybody a headache by the end of the day! Let’s Pause There examines the relationship between client and therapist, and the relationship a therapist has with themselves. For better or for worse. Sebastian shows the audience that he is just as human as his clients, and whilst he may have the answers for them, his own problems remain unresolved and spiralling.
Parkins, as the main character Sebastian, is utterly convincing and I forgot for a moment that we were watching an actor on stage in all of his glory. He is very believable as the pseudo-therapist and I started to feel attached to his world, or the version of his world he presented to the audience. I enjoyed the script and felt as though it has a lot of potential, there are subtle tell-tale signs sprinkled throughout the story that hints at Sebastian’s own declining mental health. He dissociates frequently during his sessions with clients, going off into a dream world to possibly escape from the traumas being discussed in therapy.
It’s a highly relatable defence mechanism but was hard to watch on stage. Going to therapy is a big step for a lot of people, so witnessing the person who is supposed to safeguard your emotions black out whilst you’re discussing your most terrifying feelings was uncomfortable. From my understanding of the process one has to take in order to become a therapist, seeking your own therapy/counselling is highly advisable. This is a step Sebastian has seemingly bypassed, as a result he spends his time trying to fix everybody else, including his ex wife – who exclaims this was part of the reason they divorced.
The writers Russell Obeney and Andre Guindisson have curated a very rich script, and the nuances of therapy are discussed in a way that questions the comfort and safety net of therapy. Throughout the script the audience are given conflicting messages of what it means to be in therapy and how different characters go about navigating it. But the consensus is clear, therapy is a tool to help and not to hurt.
Kate Loustau plays Summer, the promiscuous hippy from California and Chris Rochester plays Babatunde, the wildly hilarious stand up comic from Sierra Leone who uses his comedy to disguise his own traumas. These characters are wonderfully fleshed out and highlight the different personalities that walk through the door seeking therapy. I really enjoyed the writers’ exploration of these characters with their own journey through therapy.
The play had some brilliantly simulated scenes, such as a scene with the characters on a tube journey. The direction here was faultless, all lead by the creative team of director and dramaturg Ella Murdoch, stage designer Sorcha Corcoran, lighting designer Ros Chase, and sound designer Elijah Miller. The play flowed through scenes very effortlessly and nothing felt choppy or misplaced. Another thing I enjoyed about Let’s Pause There is the honest portrayal of therapy in an age where the stigma is less prominent and a lot more people are seeking it as an outlook to express themselves. I enjoyed seeing that on stage because I think it’s an important conversation that needs to be had.
However, I struggled with the representation of a somewhat judgemental therapist. Sebastian appeared to be fairly subjective in his reactions and approach to the traumas disclosed to him. The safe space of therapy seemed quite open and susceptible to concerning facial expressions and comments to the audience about the bizarre behaviours of his client. Especially when these behaviours are a result of some deeply afflicting childhood traumas, I would have thought the professional would know better. I understand we all are human and have internalised human responses to things so far out of our own comfort zone but maybe therapists should be the exception to that? I had a hard time digesting Sebastian’s mannerisms towards his clients.
Overall, I was greatly entertained by Let’s Pause There and thought the concept of the therapist who can help everyone but himself a great anecdote to explore.
Let’s Pause There plays the King’s Head Theatre until 18th June 2022 – you can find tickets here.