Neal Pike tells his story of life in an S.E.N. school in the 1990s.

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Neal Pike brought his first full-length spoken word show to Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle from 13th-17th November. Five Years tells the story of Neil’s experience of attending a special educational needs school in the 90’s. Reflections by gobscure

Neal started writing and performing with Nottingham-based Mouthy Poets a few years ago, but it was thanks to meeting Jess Thom in 2015 that Neal started thinking about making Five Years. Like many artists currently creating the most interesting, energetic work across artforms Neal is another whose voice too often not heard. At last there’s a gathering momentum for work that explores our differences, but also our multiplicities and also our commonalities.

A man sits on a chair on stage

Neal Pike. Photo by Chris-Bishop

Like much of this exciting work that is finally achieving some platform, Neal is keen on breaking out of those those boxes we are all placed (or perhaps more accurately misplaced) in – categories which limit and do not tell of our humanity. Yes, Five Years stems from his experiences in an S.E.N. (special educational needs) school – but that is only part – the show talks of human-ness, of vulnerability, and ultimately of escaping those boxes.

Neal is a warm and physical performer who makes maximum use of the space. He has a brilliant sense of timing – giving us the official, top-down narrative before pausing then blowing it away with those grass-root truths of lived experience that many will recognise and that more should hear. Neal gives us permission to laugh by finding a lightness in this subject matter. Above all he has poetry – here are three separate quotes that resonate for me.

‘was my body bruised?
yeah, a few times
my brain bruised
but its school, it will happen’

or

‘someone asked me why do you keep charging forward
like no one is in your way
because if I stand still
memories flood my brain.
memories that form weights
around my ankles
and chain me to my bed’

or

‘what about a space to come and relax
and grow things says Mr Heaton
we find some wood and make a bench
and we find some bark chippings and scatter them
it is finished

a ramshackle place we made
with love and not
doing actual lessons for once’

The ramshackle woods return thru this show as a beautiful and important place for growing and healing.

There are plans to tour Five Years more, in 2019. Neal is also developing a new spoken word show around the music of masculinity and talked with admiration of the band Idles whose current album is titled ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ – something we could all aspire to. Neal also runs Tentacles – a collective for disabled and D/deaf writers supported by Unlimited and Nottingham Playhouse.

Information on Neal can be found at http://www.nealpikeprojects.co.uk

Five Years was written and performed by Neal Pike. Directed by Matt Miller. BSL interpretation by Sue Lee. Set Design by Molly Barrett. Technical Operator Liza Ryan. Produced by Rosa Postlethwaite. Commissioned by New Writing North, Five Years has been supported by Arts Council England, Sunday for Sammy Trust, Square Chapel and Alphabetti Theatre.