'Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges' - Story

In this clip from Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges, Emerson and Hayley leave Miles (Tom Leach) alone.

Scene One – My Country 2017: On the high roof-tops of London two young people are forced to face their problems, the death of Emerson’s mum, their crumbling relationship and their dysfunctional love for one another. Emerson finds retreat in this peaceful place, a place where he can free-run and can escape from his troubles. That is until Miles appears with news that will dictate the rest of their lives, the news that a local trouble-maker called Nathan Wallis was looking for Emerson. He wanted money, money that his mum owed, for smack.

Scene Two – The Scanner‘No one can read my mind!’: Emerson’s deep secret is challenged when he is sent to see Jeanette, a Forensic Scientist. She is looking for evidence to establish who attacked Nathan Wallis, and has questions that she wants to ask Emerson. But Jeanette plans to search for evidence deeper then finger prints and blood stains. Deep into Emerson's brain, scanning his memories, his emotions and his lies.

Scene Three – I can’t Imagine How You Must Be Feeling :In the local fast food chain, a lonely Hayley is waiting for Emerson to meet her. Miles spots Hayley and tries to comfort her, offering her a neuro-stimulation energy drink and revealing the rumours that he’s heard about Emerson and Nathan Wallis. Emerson arrives and desperately tries to convince Hayley that he was not involved in the crime. Hayley trusts Emerson and truly believes that he is a good person. She has a plan to take him back to his retreat, to the place where they’re always alone and can be free, until Miles asks if he can come along...

Scene Four – The Ledges : Running free and Emerson feels like his troubles can be forgotten. With Miles out of site, Emerson and Hayley can be alone. Emerson knows that he could face a possible three years in prison. Miles appears and Emerson teases him about jumping the gaps, forcing him to face his anxieties. Miles reveals that he saw Emerson when Nathan Wallis was attacked and the secret is out. Miles explains how Emerson looked like he was possessed by a devil when he assaulted Nathan. Emerson has lied to Hayley, but she still believes that he is a good person.

Scene Five – Diminished Responsibility : Emerson gets a glimpse into Miles’ life when he is introduced to Miles's laboratory. A room filled with gadgets and gizmos for experiments and research. Miles has discovered something that he thinks could help Emerson with his trial. He saw how out-of-control Emerson was when he attacked Nathan Wallis and believes that Emerson should find out if there is something wrong with him, neurologically. ‘Defendants have began to plead diminished responsibility in assault trials’.

Scene Six – Antisocial : Emerson wants to know the truth about himself. Inside the brain scanner, Jeanette can learn things about Emerson that he does not know about himself. Hayley arrives and she has a lot of questions that she wants answered, the truth about Emerson’s condition, the truth about the crime, the truth about love. Emerson’s brain lights up and explodes at the sound of Hayley’s voice. Hayley is sure that she knows Emerson and knows that if he was to go to prison she would wait for him. But Emerson’s lack of self-control shocks them all, when the mention of his mother darkens his mood. Grabbing Hayley by the ear,he twists it.

Scene Seven – The Cracked Land : Emerson enters his own nightmare with the sound of drills and the distant calling of his mother’s voice. His mother appears and shows her disappointment in Emerson’s behaviour, ‘Don’t blame me, it was you who damaged it. Your brain’. But an argument starts and we learn the difficult time that Emerson had growing up, the abuse, the hunger and the drugs. Emerson’s mum becomes angry and twists his ear, in the same way that Emerson did to Hayley. As Emerson goes deeper into this dream like state Hayley appears on a ledge and he can see how unhappy he has made her. Miles approaches her and offers to look after her while Emerson is in prison. He is tortured by the idea of Miles and Hayley together.

Scene Eight – Excellent Evidence : Jeanette is bringing her evidence to the court. The fascinated judge hangs on to her every word as she explains what she found in Emerson’s Brain. The condition that she explains brands Emerson as having a criminal brain, beyond cure and in need of stabilising. So does this mean that Emerson is not responsible for his actions?

Scene Nine – The Love Spray : Back in Miles’s Laboratory he is spraying the air repeatedly. Hayley enters uncomfortably, while Miles tries to comfort her. He explains that the feelings of love and heartbreak are simply chemical reactions in the brain. Whilst continuing to mist the air with this oxytocin spray, he explains how he longs to feel the emotions of love. As Hayley inhales the mist she begins to feel woozy. ‘Hayley, do you think you could hold me?’ as Hayley does, Miles believes that he can feel it, love.

Scene Ten – Experimental Treatment : Its judgement time and Emerson has more to say. He wants to change his plea. He claims that he had full control over his actions and wants to take full responsibility. But it is too late. There is only one way that the Judge sees as a suitable for a boy with his ‘condition’, and it is to undergo ‘Deep Brain Stimulation’.

Scene Eleven – The Buzz 2018: In the garden of a psychiatric hospital Hayley and Emerson are reunited after a year, but something is different. The emotions that were once so strong between them have changed. Emerson is emotionally paralysed, and Hayley can barely recognise the boy who she used to love. Emerson claims that the buzzes he receives in his head are for the best. He can no longer be a danger to himself, or anybody else.

Scene Twelve – A Word 2022 : Miles is in a new place, a place where he can be himself and meet other people just like him. But he knows that he’ll always be different. He too went for brain scans, to find out the truth about himself. He wanted to know why he can’t feel the same way that other people feel, but his search to be branded was unsuccessful. Instead he found his own retreat, a place where he too can be free, at University.

Scene Thirteen - Neurojustice : 2025: A professional Lawyer stands in a well-funded scanning room in the Police station. Jeanette enters and recognises the professional woman who is standing in front of her, Hayley. But Hayley is not here to discuss Emerson. She is representing another boy who committed suicide due to the diagnosis that he was given by Jeanette. Responsibility is denied by Jeanette, claiming that due to brain scans there are fewer crimes committed and accurate sentences are given. But this is not a good enough for Hayley, because she believes that while people’s brains are being branded as criminals, we take away any right they had to a normal life.

Meet the Cast

Theatre of Debate is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England (09299573) and a registered charity (1164944). Registered office: Theatre of Debate, 19 Battlebridge Court, Wharfdale Rd, London N1 9UA