Red Rose Chain Theatre Company delves back into history of Ipswich’s St Clement’s Hospital

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Red Rose Chain are delving back into the lives of those who passed through the doors of Ipswich’s St Clement’s Hospital during its 140-year history.

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Joanna Carrick’s critically acclaimed Different Buttons ran at the hospital in 2012. The company is resurrecting it for another run at its new theatre The Avenue.

It focuses on Ruth, who encounters ghosts from the asylum’s past while waiting for a psychiatric appointment. Will their tales help her find the courage to face a positive future?

“Production wise it’s different, much more immersive. You walk in and there’s all this waiting room stuff; chairs, tables, magazines, screens, old wheelchairs... different bits and pieces from the history of the asylum,” says the writer and director.

“It’s like ‘am I being assessed?’ You go on the journey with Ruth. I’m also working with Laura Norman, our associate director, who’s designed a very subtle soundscape for the show; you will feel more drawn into the various atmospheres and various different time zones.”


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Carrick says Different Buttons is a very emotional, fasten your seatbelt, kind of show full of extreme characters. It explores not only the hospital’s free-thinking, philanthropic approach to dealing with mental health historically but raises questions of what the modern world is doing to us.

“I think there’s a lot of peace missing in life. The anguish, the pain (people suffered in years past) still exists immensely today - it’s something that kind of unites us across history in a way.”

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Different Buttons, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, sold out during its initial run. While written to mark the hospital’s closure, Red Rose Chain felt it deserved a life as a play in its own right and give those who missed it another chance.

“We’ve just done Progress and I thought it would be lovely to do back to back two shows that reflect different periods in the history of the town; a new play I’ve written specifically for the opening of The Avenue and something we’re bringing back to connect with the work we’ve done so far.”

Different Buttons runs at The Avenue, Gippeswyk Avenue, Ipswich, March 10-28.

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