Encompassing comedy with a dark twist and relatable message, Hannah Baker's Banter Jar questions the morals and balance between the responsibility of others' and our own mental health, alongside love and growing up. Having had a run at the Lion and Unicorn theatre last month, we can only hope for a future return sometime soon.
You can read my full review here:
Curious about how the show came about, I asked Hannah if she'd give us an insight on this, and here's what she said.
How was the concept of Banter Jar born?
I began writing down real events, then as time went on the concept gradually moulded together as the show formed.
How did you research the subject of mental health for this project, and how did you ensure your representation was mindful?
Probably like lots of people, I felt surrounded by mental health when growing up, having many people in my life with a plethora of mental health illnesses. In terms of being mindful, I asked lots of friends with very different life experiences and ages to read various versions of the script. It was very important for me to make people question and put them into difficult positions without causing offence or crossing a line out of comedy drama.
What considerations did you make with regards to transporting the audience to different locations and visualising the characters using just yourself, and minimal staging?
My director, Chris Larner, was a huge help with this. We staged different locations in different parts of the stage, facing new ways and making everything pretty precise. Other factors that helped create the locations were: my attitude towards the location; music, as in the club and allotment; overly dramatised movements- the bus. Similarly for characters, we rehearsed making each character precise. Some were larger than life and silly (e.g. The Pie Man) and others were very similar to myself (e.g. Rachel and my Mum). It was interesting exploring the points where it’s suitable to bring characters out, and when it’s more engaging to see me responding to them.
Why did you decide to incorporate dark comedy into a piece with such taboo themes?
To me, comedy is the gateway to the darker themes. I wanted to make people laugh and cry. I love theatre that achieves this. I don’t think the dark comedy discredits the serious themes at all, if anything it makes them more accessible by normalising them and making the show more realistic to everyday life.
What’s the best and most challenging part about both performing and writing the show yourself?
The most challenging aspect was fear and self doubt. I love rehearsing in groups, so it was tricky writing and rehearsing alone for such a large part of the process. However, I was very lucky to have a wonderful housemate which I’d call over to watch sections of the play as I was developing it. The best part is I had my own schedule! Some days I lost myself in writing for most of a day and other days I didn’t write at all. The freedom of it was fantastic.
What message do you hope people took from Banter Jar?
I hope it makes people want to be kinder. It’s not a particularly profound message, but I feel it’s important. Another message is that you can’t fix people. This sounds obvious when written down, but in reality I think it’s easy to do subconsciously.
Where do you plan on taking your theatre career next?
I trained as an actor musician, so hopefully lots of auditioning for actor-muso shows. I’ve also started gigging which I’m loving. I’d love to write something else too. It’s all up in the air at the moment, but I look forward to whatever comes my way.
And lastly, who inspires you and why?
Corr thats tricky, so many people are inspirational. In relation to Banter Jar, I’d say Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play Fleabag and stand up comedian Daniel Sloss. Both create a magic combination of comedy and tragedy, exactly what I wanted to emulate in Banter Jar.
Big thanks to Hannah for getting involved- really look forward to seeing what you get up to next!