An uneasy relationship drama. Athena Stevens’ Schism transfers to Park Theatre

Read our Schism play review from London’s Park Theatre.

I never wanted to change, in case you didn’t like it.

Schism, a stunning play from disabled playwright, Athena Stevens, is transferring to London’s Park Theatre this May.

Questioning the power dynamics between male and female, and disabled and non-disabled, at its heart Schism is a play about two people finding each other.

And it questions the point where dreams and relationships become unrealistic or out-of-date.

Failed architect Harrison had plans end his life. The last thing he needed was Katherine, a young student with cerebral palsy, breaking into his house begging for his help.

As their chaotic first encounter turns into the beginning of a 20-year relationship, the unlikely couple grow to realise that they are capable of either building something great together – or absolutely destroying each other.

Schism, which was first performed at the Finborough Theatre, London, is written and co-performed by playwright Athena Stevens, who, like her character, has cerebral palsy.

Athena said: “Schism took me years to write because I needed to understand the unhealthy power dynamics I was being asked to accept as a woman.

“People would set me up on a pedestal and call me ‘inspirational’ until I would ask to be their equal.

“To have a woman with a disability call you out for discrimination, or promoting an unhealthy power dynamic, or to say ‘your actions are hurting me’ throws a lot of people into shock.

“They get defensive and start gas-lighting because it’s easier to brush things under the rug than to take responsibility for their actions.

“So the question that this play presents is ‘how long do I hold onto the hope people will change and when do I need to let go and live my life without those people?”

Athena’s previous plays include The Amazing Vancetti Sisters (Tristan Bates Theatre) and Detours Ahead (Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago).

She is currently on the Channel 4 screenwriters course, as well as a playwright in attachment for the Finborough Theatre.

In 2016, she was elected the national spokesperson for equality in the media for the Women’s Equality Party. In 2017, she was named a member of the Shakespeare’s Globe Creative Council, and will be directing there later in the year.

Jonathan McGuinness plays Harrison. Theatre includes Bodies (Royal Court Theatre), Imogen (Globe Theatre), Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (Hampstead Theatre), The Oresteia (Almeida), Love’s Sacrifice (RSC), The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas (Royal Court Theatre), Metamorphosis (Vesturpost/Lyric Hammersmith) and Comedy of Errors (RSC).

Television includes Holby City (BBC), Wolf Hall (Company Pictures), The Bletchley Circle (ITV), Silk (BBC), Casualty (BBC), Robin Hood (BBC), Catherine Tate Show (BBC/Tiger Aspect) and A Touch of Frost (Yorkshire Television).

Schism, directed by Lily McLeish, runs in the Park 90 from May 16 – June 9.

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