Entertainment Views Interviews… Sharon Willems, Director of The Big Things

The Big Things by Mike Heath is due to enjoy a run at Barons Court Theatre from Monday 16th April 2018. I was fascinated by the subject matter and was therefore delighted to interview the production’s director, Sharon Willems

Tell me about the production and the inspiration for it.

The Big Things by Mike Heath was selected for world premiere following an open submissions window in February 2018. In the span of five days, we received almost 200 scripts from across the world. We selected the play for production because we were won over by the beautifully complex central female character, Grace. Through her experiences, we gain insight into the intricacies of living with autism as an adult and a new parent. This is a story rarely seen on the stage, and we are proud to be producing the world premiere of Grace’s story.

How does the venue lend itself to the piece?

It’s great to be in a space like The Barons Court Theatre. There’s an intimacy that really lends itself to stories like ours, and it creates a wonderful atmosphere. At times the actors speak directly to the audience and in a venue like The Barons Court everyone will feel like part of the story.

What are the strengths of the production?

 Increasingly in the media, we’re learning that women who are autistic are largely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. I love how the play invites you to rethink what this condition looks like and gives an insight to the challenges that couples face during and after diagnosis. I’ve never worked on a production where we explore the gender roles in such a realistic way, either. Grace and Malcolm are real people, flawed and loving, and the challenges and joys they experience as new parents are very relatable. They remind me of a lot of couples I know.

Have you found that your perception changes as you move to the rehearsal room?

I wouldn’t say that my perception has changed so much as I’ve just really enjoyed the process of investigating the play with our brilliant company of actors. The play covers a lot of big events in the characters’ lives and asks a lot of the actors, and it’s been great to see them rise to the challenge. There’s some lovely humour and romance in the play and it’s been a real pleasure to rehearse. We’ve had a lot of fun.

What can the audience expect from the piece?

An evening of laughs and heartfelt moments with a couple they can really see themselves in and root for. Hopefully, audiences will come away with a new sense of how autism is unique to each person on the spectrum and maybe doesn’t look like how they might expect. It’s a beautiful, complex story that asks us to rethink how we define normal.

Finally, why should everyone come and see it?

Our goal, beyond providing an entertaining night of theatre, is to widen the dialogue around people with ASD and to raise awareness about the condition, especially where it impacts the mental health of so many women. When you come see the show you’ll have a lovely night out (great pub upstairs!) seeing an exciting new play that asks big questions with a lot of heart. We can’t wait to share this play with you. See you at the show!

Thanks to Sharon for an insightful interview – you can book tickets to see the piece, hereThe Big Things – Book Tickets

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