Cut to the Chase: Tony Teardrop

The Bombed-Out Church, Liverpool
21st March 201325th March 2013

The Bombed-Out Church is a Liverpool icon. Tourists love it as a photogenic ruin. Locals flock to it for cultural events programmed by the redoubtable Urban Strawberry Lunch. Everyone loves a ruin. For Tony Teardrop, Cut to the Chase draws upon the Church’s reputation as a hangout for some of the city’s homeless. It’s a production that tests the company’s site-specific practice to the limit, since its situation in the Church can’t avoid questions of ethics in its embrace of poetic justice. While there has always been psychogeographic poetry in Liverpool’s homeless congregating around the Bombed-Out Church, the enjoyment of irony is a luxury for those who aren’t caught up in it. Tony Teardrop is hugely entertaining, but more importantly still it is an empathic tale about those whose lives are in ruins.

Plonked in an easy chair and sipping from a can, we met Tony in the lounge of a hostel at which he is meant to be a temporary resident, giving orders to the other residents – and also giving it them straight. Although his avuncular manner could turn on a sixpence, Neil Bell’s high-octane performance was subtle enough to prove that Tony was a passionate and determined individual rather than a callous one. He talked rather grandiosely about aesthetics and science, Michelangelo and perspective in art, but Tony was no mere showman: his obsessive discourse eloquently bore the hallmarks of accumulated knowledge and lost potential. His intellectual and creative spark, however, had been short-circuited by schizophrenia.

Aided and abetted by the other residents, the hostel manifested Tony’s determination to make it a home. Mountains of tat were assembled in the yard, and the new manager – ‘Hitler’s Knickers’ in Tony’s moniker – was equally determined to make their home clinically efficient. Defiant to the last, Tony worked throughout on his creative and technological masterpiece, in which the aforementioned tat was fashioned into a ‘tuck-tuck’, a bicycle with bells and whistles of which the boy from E.T. might have been proud.

The core storyline of Tony’s creative process was part of an episodic structure whose momentum depicted the restless reality of the homeless. It would be simplistic to cavil at this form, since the pace and timing of the episode are apt for a world in which things rarely remain in place. Assemblages of furniture and half-finished structures evoked the communal spaces of the hostel in the background, whereas the long and wide stage in the foreground enabled bodies to range freely. The city was depicted through sheer physicality, and the roofless and windowless church in which we sat shivering opened our ears to the city’s throb and hum. While off-script the actors observed the action as if to evoke the paranoid surveillance under which vulnerable people feel throughout the wakeful hours. The Brechtian note of this direction addressed itself to the audience through meta-theatrical moments in which the Bombed-Out Church doubled-up as the locale of action and the space of performance. A contemplative moment had Tony instruct new hostel resident Billy, a wise young man played with assurance and maturity by Robert Schofield, on seeing the world anew merely by looking at the sky from the other end of the Church. ‘It’s only the Bombed-Out Church,’ Billy retorts, in an attempt to shake Tony out of reverie. The intended effect of this ironic play-off was to unseat the spectator by means of an imagined reality. Empathy is not a given, in other words, but it can win over if only we shift position.

One of the play’s discrete messages, particularly during a crisis for which there seems to be no plan B, is that more than ever we need to think of the victims of violent capitalism. But we can also be victims of circumstance. Homelessness is represented in the play neither one-sidedly nor in celebratory mode. It is a life few would choose to live if possessed of adequate agency. Esther Wilson’s granitic script avoided sentimentality through caustic repartee, as if affection was something the characters could ill-afford. Wilson’s ear for the brutal sarcasm and unforgiving wit of real people revealed a writer who has engaged in actually listening to them.

Homeless people’s lives reset the meaning of the comfort zone. Boundaries are constantly tested and can dangerously overflow. The play’s climax demonstrated this to exhilarating effect, but its fuse was burst in a comic ending which had Tony riding off on his homemade tuck-tuck. Before this he confronted Hitler’s Knickers as if his life depended on it with a moving speech on what it meant to make and have a home. ‘You’re too far west and I’m too far east,’ Tony angrily informs her, in an image that has both of them waving hopelessly at each other from opposite ends of the human spectrum. Off he went, as the audience was told throughout the play, to a reunion with his estranged children, for whom the bike was made. Resisting facile resolutions of both dramatic and moral kinds, in the end the play encouraged us to think that Tony just rode on and on, regardless of whether he reached his destination or whether it was possible to have one at all.

Interview with the Director

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Jen in Site-Specific - (0 Comments)



Interview with Jen Heyes


Listen to Front Row here

wpid383-Tony-Teardrop-4588 black and white

picture taken by Brian Roberts

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THURSDAY MARCH 21st to SATURDAY April 6th @ St Lukes (Bombed out) Church Liverpool L1 2TR TICKEts from £10 – £16

All PREVIEW TICKETS £10 from  21st to 25th March 2013 – EVENINGS 8PM


EMAIL : boxoffice@everymanplayhouse.com

ONLINE: www.everymanplayhouse.com

Watch the TONY TEARDROP Promo Film created by Anthony Swords:



Produced & Directed BY JEN HEYES


Photography by  LEE JEFFRIES

Lighting Design – PHIL SAUNDERS


Funded by Arts Council of England and Liverpool PCT

Outreach & Workshop Director  – CARL COCKRAM


copyright images – Lee Jeffries – all rights reserved

Esther Wilson – How she came to write Tony Teardrop:

“As part of the process on a regional voices scheme with the National Theatre I wrote Tony Teardrop. It was inspired by a real story. At the time my sister was working in a ‘Wet House’ (a refuge for the homeless where residents –usually alcoholics- can drink on the premises) run by a Church charity. It was a stressful but rewarding job. It got me thinking about morality and ethics, how they shift according to time, circumstance and perception. I was particularly interested in the idea that some people…those who drop out of mainstream society…are able to be more objective about how society works. And I was also interested in how someone with a ‘Christian’ morality has their perceptions challenged. So…Tony Teardrop was born. That was in 2004. A lot has happened since then. To me personally and to the society we live in, both politically and philosophically. Today we are both very different. I’ve always been politically active, in some way. By marching and protesting against what I perceived to be injustice I felt that I had some impact on what happens. After the anti-Iraqi war march in 2003 something appeared to shift in a lot of activists I know. The term ‘democracy’ sounded even more hollow than ever.

Today people are disillusioned by how global financial institutions wield so much power. A new form of protest – the occupy movement – is using technology as a tool to connect, disseminate information and to record events and brutality. It’s an exciting time. People creating tiny canvas enclaves in order to disrupt the rhythm of a prominent part of the city in order to be seen and heard. It’s common for local businesses to give hot food and drinks as an act of solidarity. When I’ve been on peace camps I was always moved by acts of kindness and generosity.

In relation to the play I got to thinking about how all this impacts on homeless people. We see them everywhere. We walk past them, step over them or try to avoid them. Where is our solidarity with them? It’s a dichotomy that both saddens and confuses me.

2012 is the year England hosts the Olympics. We are told the eyes of the world will be focused on us.  Billions are being spent on preparations. Yet it’s common knowledge that the area around the site has been ‘cleansed’ of homeless people. They aren’t housed are given shelter. They are, literally, just ‘lifted and shifted’ like rubbish. The police put new arrivals straight back on the coach from where they came. It’s a problem that isn’t being addressed on any level”

Esther Wilson

January 2012


May 30th, 2012 | Posted by Jen in Performance | Site-Specific - (0 Comments)





Promo: https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151372877108448

Website visit : www.atreasuredevent.com

Have a read of Brendan Ball’s Blog!


The ArtsDesk

Total Theatre

Liverpool Daily Post


What’s On Stage

For a preview of Treasured by the Liverpool Echo:

Liverpool Echo Preview of Treasured

Curiouser & Curiouser @ Tate Liverpool

November 14th, 2011 | Posted by Jen in Site-Specific - (0 Comments)



Produced by Young Tate in collaboration with Cut to the Chase Productions.Creative input from Punchdrunk Enrichment. Directed by Jen Heyes

Tate Liverpool

Young Tate Liverpol is a group of around 15 members with a strong interest in the arts. They range from 17-25 and have a wealth of experience programming events in the gallery. This process of production is mediated and managed by the Youth and Community Curator Shaun Curtis ( who is moving onto a new position at Tate London this Friday!) There most recent project was to curate a Tate collection display with counterparts from galleries in Paris, Helsinki and London as a part of a major European project and produce the catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

Through this project they took part in a performance at Centre Pompidou directed by Fatou Traoré, an experience they wish to build on with their next project.

This next project is to produce an event in response to the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland exhibition at Tate Liverpool between 4th November – 29th January. To create this new production they will collaborate  CttC artistic director Jen Heyes with creative input from Punchdrunk Enrichment director Pete Higgin. The project will be managed by Karen Green.

We had our first meeting today in the Tate cafe. First time for us all to meet and discuss the project. Punchdrunk’s Enrichment director Pete Higgin travelled up from London met by Joe from Young Tate at Lime Street Station for our 2 hour team discussion/presentation by Shaun Curtis and discussion with representative members of the Young Tate team. We have an opportunity to take a peak at the as yet ‘top secret’ Alice in Wonderland planned exhibits.Very exciting . . . We also have an opportunity to take a look around the building and view possible spaces. Karen, Pete and I play catch up as Shaun and Young Tate members share their ideas around the project to date as well as their hopes and expectations for the collaboration.

We begin devising in September more news then . . .