Review: Different Buttons

Every now and then there’s a piece of theatre that really grabs you, tugs on your heart strings and leaves you speechless – Different Buttons is one such piece.

Performed by Red Rose Chain in their fabulous Avenue Theatre and written by the amazing Joanna Carrick, Different Buttons tells, not one but five, stories about the people who spent time at St Clement’s Hospital in Ipswich.

The Red Rose Chain have never been afraid of touching subjects that are sometimes a little sensitive and this production was first performed within the hospital building shortly after it closed in 2012.

Different Buttons explores the history of the building and the hospital through the ghosts of patients from it’s past. Ruth (Lucy Telleck) is a young woman waiting to be assessed by doctors in the present day. As she sits filling in her form in the waiting room, she is visited, almost reminiscent of that Victorian tale of A Christmas Carol, by ghosts from the past, but not her past but those of the building.

There’s Herbert Brett (David Newborn) one of the first inhabitants of the building who shuffles around and is clearly delusional. Next we meet Zachariah Elliot (superbly played by Tom McCarron), Zachariah is in fact not a patient but a reporter for the Ipswich Gazette reporting on the splendid new building and as such acts as the narrator and historian.

Bobby Fynn (Daniel Abbott) is a stargazer from the late 60s, convinced we are going to be invaded from the planet Venus. And, Nora Little, (Rachel McCormick) appears to be a tea lady, but we soon discover there’s more, her character inhabited St Clement’s in the 1920s. She doesn’t want to tell her story as the others have but instead links the stories of the others while dispensing tea, but will her story come out?

The atmosphere created in Red Rose’s new theatre space works brilliantly well for this piece, which has great lighting and a fantastic sound track. The way the actors perform the characters telling their stories is so realistic it does, at times, make for some uncomfortable viewing.

This is an amazing piece of theatre about a subject that most would dare not touch, performed in a brilliant way. This may be second time around for Different Buttons, however the piece now seems even more dramatic and extremely moving.

This may not be the first choice for an evening out giving the subject matter, however it’s certainly a performance well worth seeing.
Different Buttons is on at the Avenue Theatre, Gipswick Avenue, Ipswich until 28th March. To book tickets 01473 603388 or visit

• Wendy Cook, Ipswich24