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Hornchurch actor devises play about childhood bereavement at Half Moon Theatre, Limehouse

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:14 19 February 2020

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen Beeny

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen Beeny

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After losing his dad three years ago a Hornchurch actor has created a play that explores children’s experiences of grief and bereavement.

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen BeenyMichael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen Beeny

Michael Gonsalves attended Havering Sixth Form College before studying at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

His latest play, Paper Aeroplane, explores bereavement and the challenges people face when they try to move on after losing someone.

He told the Recorder: "It's about a boy who lost their parent.

"I lost my dad about three years ago and it's really close to the heart.

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes, a play about bereavement. Picture: Stephen BeenyMichael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes, a play about bereavement. Picture: Stephen Beeny

"[The play] is about showing the seven stages of grief and trying to really push the boundaries."

Michael's dad, Lionel, died after an allergic reaction to chemotherapy treatment.

"He was the best man to grace the planet," said Michael. "The best husband and dad and son."

Aimed at three to seven-year-olds, Paper Aeroplane takes its audience on a musical journey as two new friends soar through clouds, fly over distant seas and circle faraway lands.

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen BeenyMichael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen Beeny

The play was devised by the actors and director Amber-Rose May from the Lots Of Odds Theatre.

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Michael said: "We had the subject and the title and then we came together to create the characters and the storyline.

"We had just over three weeks in October last year for rehearsals and development and then we had a showing and workshop for families that had lost a parent."

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen BeenyMichael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse. Picture: Stephen Beeny

Michael auditioned for the play at the same time as his wife, Claire Burns, and they both coincidentally secured the roles for the two-person play.

He described the experience of working with bereaved families as a "heart-wrenching".

"[Children] haven't got the intellect and teaching to be able to understand [grief] fully," said Michael.

"I'm 33 and I still don't understand it fully.

Michael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Whitechapel. Picture: Stephen BeenyMichael Gonsalves and his wife Claire Burns in Paper Aeroplanes at the Half Moon Theatre in Whitechapel. Picture: Stephen Beeny

"There was some sort of bond in regards to the fact that I've lost someone and it made it a very sobering and freeing experience.

"Paper Aeroplane is about something horrendous but it's trying to bring the good out of it."

Paper Aeroplane is showing at Half Moon Theatre in White Horse Road, Limehouse from on Thursday, February 27.

Michael and Claire are also taking the show to Ireland and Northern Ireland and will be performing it at various venues throughout the year including theatres in Manchester and Bury St Edmunds.

Visit halfmoon.org.uk.

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