Ann Mitchell

To be published in:  Chris Megson:  'Decades of Modern British Playwriting - the seventies'.

The actress Ann Mitchell played the role of Brenda in the original production of Edgar's Mary Barnes (1978).

On train to Birmingham. Feeling sad and apprehensive. Hate leaving my children but I must work. Knowing my friend Simon [Callow] will be playing [the renowned psychotherapist] Joseph Berke helps. And that Patti [Love] will be playing Mary. The rest of the actors I don't know personally but admire.

Digs O.K. Rehearsals begin. Good actors. Good people. All committed to telling this story. We're a little tentative with each other but soon everyone's passion for the piece takes over.

Heated discussion. It's clear this is a cast utterly committed to the work. Peter Farrago [the director] has the foresight and courage to let us talk and argue for a very long time. We're getting to know each other and what each will bring to the table. This company want and need to honour the very soul of this piece - we all have a personal connection of some kind with the material and soon we start to ‘become' our characters. I'm playing the only female therapist in the play, which means I end up doing a lot of mothering on and off the stage as does Si. The actors playing the therapists begin to become powerful and competitive and the actors playing the ‘patients' eye us warily!
Joe Berke comes to some rehearsals. He is funny, irreverent, insightful, kind and wise. Listens to a barrage of questions patiently and answers them with clarity and startling honesty.

Suddenly we're on our feet. Patti embodies the very soul of Mary. Heated discussions go on long after rehearsals finish - over that age-old actors' comfort food: egg and chips.

These are British actors doing ‘the Method' to the manner born.

First night a triumph. Patti giving a truly wonderful performance - every one of us there - in the moment - living, breathing this play. It pays off. We're transferring to the Royal Court. We are a company and a special one - we look out for each other and respect each other. David [Edgar], Peter, Joe - everyone over the moon - we're bringing it home to London!

On the night some of the therapists who had worked at Kingsley Hall came to the Court to see the play, I was asked if I had ever thought of becoming a therapist.[i] I'd had a life-long interest in analysis and had devoured Freud, Jung, Adler - you name it - since the age of seventeen - and R.D. Laing and Joe Berke. To my amazement I was invited to become a student of Joe's at Arbours and eventually his boss when I was asked years later to become a trustee of Arbours![ii]

Simon continues to be one of my best friends and Joe and his family have become close friends. My children blossomed and took their place in the world. It was a great experience and I look back on it with tremendous affection