Sunday, 13 July 2014

Chlorine @ Zoo

I have concerns about theatre's relationship to 'mental health.' In fact, I don't even like talking about 'mental health': the phrase suggests that it is dealing with the wide range of possible consciousnesses, when it really means 'mental illness' (but it is trying to avoid the stigma).

I have a deep conviction that what has been called mental illness is not a strict category of consciousness, but a series of common symptoms that are bundled together when an individual becomes dysfunctional and called a diagnosis. That is not to say people do not suffer - depression is more or less the standard setting in modern life - or that anyone ought to throw their pills in the bin. However, from my position, all discussion about mental health is fundamentally flawed.

And theatre has been responsible: 'mad' characters have always been either comic (thank you, Shakespeare and the Fool) or deadly (the character who takes pills for their moods will end up killing someone). The representation of madness in performance has encouraged the idea that the mentally ill are other.

Recently, there has been a change: mental illness has become an issue, giving plenty of plays that take it very seriously. Better than this are verbatim works that try to give voice to the subject's 'victims,' and Chlorine goes one better: it is the experiences of the writer.

Nest question: what will this do for representations of 'madness?'

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