Making Shows on Mental Health by Alice Lamb & Tid

29 July 2017

The Fringe this year is becoming increasingly aware of mental health as a subject matter for shows, but also more aware of its role in supporting festival participants to sustain their mental wellbeing throughout the festival. This year they have introduced a series of Fringe Central Events for participants such as ‘Mental Health is a Fringe Issue’ (14th, 1pm) and ‘A Mentally Well Fringe’ (8th 2pm).

Mental health awareness isn’t just about encouraging people to talk, it’s also about encouraging people to listen. Theatre is a space for focused listening free from distraction. It’s wonderful that there is such a range of shows related to mental health on at the fringe this year, from performers making work about their own lived experience such as Help! by Viki Browne to ensemble shows such as Worklight Theatre who are using research and interviews to create Fix, a thoughtful piece on addiction.

Our show, Mental offers an insight into one family’s experience of a mental illness. Through a powerful mix of song, medical notes and anecdotes we try to create a sense of one mum’s, (Kim’s) bipolar experience, and the effect it has on her son (Kane).

Making pieces about mental health issues isn’t easy. Whether you're making a piece about your own experience or other peoples; you have a duty of care to yourself, the people whose stories you are telling and anyone watching who has a connection to the issues in your show. But it’s vital that these stories are heard.

‘When 1 in 4 of us will suffer from mental illness, that means 3 out of 4 will potentially be a carer at some point, so we need to talk about this, and I need to talk about it. Maybe knowing we aren’t alone in this struggle is a way to end the stigma.’ - a line from Mental.

Kane wanted to make Mental because he thought it might make an interesting story which offered a personal insight into issues around mental health. It’s also given Kim an opportunity to explore and reflect on her condition with Kane, which she says has had positive effects for her recovery.

We hope, along with all other mental health related shows at the Fringe, Mental can continue to contribute positively to all the mental health campaigns out there. Beyond the artistic aspirations of the show, the real goal is to help end the stigma and change the conversation around mental health across the UK.

Mental joins Assembly Festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-27 August 2017 at 17:05 @ Assembly Roxy – Downstairs. See more of the Mental here!