Talking B*llocks Charity Showcase is an all-round success
Written by Claudia Bradley
The Robin Cancer Trust Charity Showcase has been in the works for months, and saw over £1200 raised by the evening of the performance on Saturday 19th of November, International Men’s Day.
With multiple societies at the University of Essex (Dance, Theatre, Cheer, Pole, and Music) all getting involved, students succeeded in putting on a wonderful display of talent and support for the Robin Cancer Trust’s cause.
The first act saw the different societies demonstrate their skills, with dance performances of varying flavors blending between multiple musical acts. Notable is Terezie Cizkova’s poignant poetry reading, which she dedicated to the Robin Cancer Trust.
The showcase was the vision of Nifemi Wilson-Adu, who had the project in mind more than six months ago.
“In the Theatre Arts Society, we used to raise money for the Robin Cancer Trust by doing naked calendars,” Nifemi laughed. “Obviously we got rid of that. But instead, because I’d just directed the TAS Christmas pantomime, I decided to put on a charity showcase.”
The show was distinctly well-received, with students and guests alike clapping in time to the music, cheering the acts on, and filling nearly all 200 seats of the Lakeside Theater.
And where students shone in the first act, the performance of the second act was about a whole other star.
“There were definitely times I got a lump in my throat.”
The play, ‘One Man Down’, was based on the story of Darren Couchman, who students would recognise as the cheerful, happy-go-lucky man walking around campus with his head between a pair of balls every week.
Director Will Tennison, a politics student at the University of Essex, described what made the play so great to work on.
He said: “I think it’s about being able to take a story like that, and addressing it in the ways that it’s important to people– so it’s your kids, it’s your wife, it’s your future. It’s about being able to take that story, which is really personal to Darren, and being able to make it relatable to anybody, and try and raise that awareness and break down the stigma.”
Will also left the audience with chills from several of his directorial choices; particularly when he played white noise through the speakers to drown out the doctor’s words, and to spotlight young Darren (James Little) and his feelings during the diagnosis scene.
The talent of the actors also had the audience in raptures. One big name of the night was first year student Lolly Taylor, who was “phenomenal” in her portrayal of Darren’s wife, Sarah. After the strength of her debut performance, it’s easy to be excited for her work in the future.
Scriptwriter Ed Lee was heard commending the actors for their talent immediately after the show, as well as giving Will high praise for his “absolutely brilliant” use of Beatles songs in the interim. Nifemi had also selected Ed to write the play months ago, hearing his reputation.
Ed divulged his vision for the particularly moving final scene of the play, where the actor’s voices layered over one another to echo the takeaway messages from the show: “Get it out; check it out.”
He said: “The only direction I gave for the closing scene is that it was in the room where they have the chemo. I spoke to other cancer survivors, and one of the things they said to me is that they were amazed when they went into the chemo room.
“Instead of it being a place of misery and everybody feeling sorry for themselves,” he said, “Everybody was supportive, cheering and happy and welcoming. And Darren said very much the same thing. And I wanted that to come out.”
Currently doing his masters in scriptwriting, Ed named University of Essex’ professor of drama, Johnathan Lichtenstein, as his inspiration. He also did a sponsored walk before the showcase to raise more money for the Robin Cancer Trust.
Darren Couchman, the Community Engagement Manager for the Robin Cancer Trust, could be seen smiling and laughing throughout the play and said he was deeply impressed by the whole showcase.
“It was really good! It was brilliant,” Darren described. “There were definitely times I got a lump in my throat. There was such a variety of entertainment.
“I’m so glad I had such a good-looking young man to play me,” he joked. “It’s been an amazeballs show, a fan-testicle night, the absolute b*llocks!”
Darren is a testicular cancer survivor himself; he has been raising awareness since 2008 with publicity stunts and campaigns. In May 2010, he and Richard Miller set the original Guinness World Record for the ‘largest simultaneous self-check for testicular cancer’ of 208 men.
Darren was deeply moved as the show closed, when he was surprised on stage with a bouquet of flowers and a box of Lindor’s chocolate balls.