After a sell out run in Oxford, students from the University of Oxford present this year’s Oxford University Dramatic Society National Tour: Stop, a new musical by Leo Munby and Annabel Mutale Reed. Four strangers meet at a London bus stop, and although not immediately obvious, gradually reveal that they each suffer from their own distinct mental health problem. When they board the bus, they start a chain of events that leads to their eventual suicides. But a lot can happen while waiting for a bus – especially when the bus stop itself has its own ideas.

Stop has been workshopped and developed with Claude Michel Schonberg, composer of Les Miserables; and the leading mental health charity SANE, and brings together Oxford University’s brightest talents. The musical is as beautiful as it is urgently topical, with mental health being increasingly recognised as one of the most pressing issues of our time. The movement for greater awareness has recently gathered exciting momentum – particularly with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Heads Together campaign attracting significant coverage – and Stop is a show with an important part to play in it. This musical eloquently demonstrates the benefits of placing these discussions in an enjoyable and accessible context of theatre and music.

Munby said ‘the title song, ‘Stop’, was the seed from which the whole musical developed’. ‘Stop’ so impressed Claude Michel Schonberg that he was inspired to become actively involved in the project himself, aiding and encouraging the development of Stop to reach its full potential. This song in particular expresses movingly what its creators see as the play’s rallying call: the urgent need for a place to stop, talk, and think through one’s decisions.

Stop conjures up characters and situations with which the audience will be all too familiar. There are moments in Stop when everyone is able recognise themselves. At its heart, this project aims to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues, and to start conversations which will lead to sufferers being supported, rather than stigmatised, through an enjoyable, accessible, and modern musical setting.

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