Liverpool’s Everyman Playhouse show “Cartoonopolis” tackles autism issues

Cartoonopolis Promotional Image by Brian Roberts

Photo © Brian Roberts

Young Everyman Playhouse graduate Lewis Bray will make his professional debut in the Playhouse Studio this spring in a one-man play. Cartoonopolis is about the imaginary cartoon world created by his autistic brother Jack and what happens when the real world collides with make-believe in this funny and touching portrayal of family life.

The play is the first commission from the e&P Ignition Project, which supports new talent in the industry and Cartoonopolis runs from Thursday 5th to Saturday 14th February.

Cartoonopolis is a funny and touching portrait of family life. Based on real events, it gives an insight into the world of Lewis’ brother, Jack, who is a young man with severe autism, and their parents.

As a child Jack’s autism meant he found it difficult to express himself until a chance encounter with Buzz Lightyear changed his life forever. After watching Toy Story, Jack found cartoons provided him with a gateway and now as a young man he has created a huge imaginary world: Cartoonopolis. His world is filled with characters as diverse as Porky Pig and Batman, and also including characters of his own invention, like the evil Mayor Sharp.

One day Jack invited Lewis into this world and that was the beginning of a big adventure for them both. This is juxtaposed with scenes with their Mum and Dad and their daily routines. The real highs, real lows, real laughs and genuine real life love.

“This is the real story about living with Jack, and his imaginary world,” says Jack. “It’s also about my heroes, our mum and dad. How my family learnt to live with Jack’s fictional town, all the cartoon characters who live there, and how we learnt to live with his autism. This is the story of Cartoonopolis.’

“I was working on a different one-man show when Jack told me about Cartoonopolis,” Lewis told The Skinny when a’scratch version’ of the show was first performed at the Everyword Festival last year, noting Jack’s ongoing involvement to bring ideas to the show. “An imaginary cartoon world with a population of ten billion – most of them famous cartoon characters – presided over by the evil Mayor Sharp,” he says. Devised by Jack as a “place to escape from the madness” of daily life, Bray decided to physicalise Jack’s imaginary city, creating something altogether more tangible, palpable. “I decided that I wanted to put Cartoonopolis into a play. I wanted people to hear his story. I wanted people to understand him.”

This production is the first play to be staged thanks to the e&P Ignition Project which supports artists from across the disciplines making their entrance into professional theatre. The e&P Ignition Project is supported through the Talent Fund which was raised as part of the fundraising campaign for the Everyman redevelopment. The Everyman & Playhouse have been known throughout their history as breeding grounds for young actors, writers and directors and the e&P Ignition Project strengthens the theatres’ commitment to talent development.

Cartoonopolis is the perfect example of why the e&P Ignition Project is a vital ingredient of our work here,” feels Everyman & Playhouse Associate Director Nick Bagnall, who leads the e&P Ignition Project. “The e&P Ignition Project gives artists an opportunity to experiment and wrestle with their ideas and to develop as artists. We couldn’t be prouder in Lewis and Cartoonopolis and we know that we have one of the most extraordinary new theatre makers in the country with an incredibly bright future.”

The play is co-directed by Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson. Matt is Director of YEP, his previous credits include Papertown, Intimate and The Grid for YEP; Beating Berlusconi for Turf Love productions and he is a founder member of Big Wow Theatre Company. Chris is Associate Director of YEP, his credits include Next! at the Unity Theatre, A Comedy of Errors for Off The Ground as well as Wind in the Willows, Intimate and Papertown for YEP.

Cartoonopolis: a Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse production, funded by the e&P Ignition Project, written and performed by Lewis Bray, directed by Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson runs at Liverpool Playhouse Studio from Thursday 5th to Saturday 14th February 2015. Tickets: £10 – £12 – available here. Web:

• Follow Lewis Bray on Twitter @lewisbray and on Facebook at


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