Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Think Dramaturgy: Evangeline Osbon @ Edfringe 2017

Written by Evangeline Osbon
“Nutcases can’t be friends with nutcases”
Unapologetically hard hitting yet funny, ‘Think’ tells the story of a young man, Jay, suffering from severe Anorexia Nervosa. When he is admitted to an inpatient mental health unit his life is turned upside down as he meets Molly who battles with Bi-Polar Depression. With her boyfriend and his sister both on the outside, how will they cope together?

What was the inspiration for this performance?

My sister, Izzie. She battled with Anorexia Nervosa for a long time and was admitted to an eating disorder unit. A previous partner of mine was also admitted to a mental health unit because he tried to take his life and was later diagnosed with Bi-Polar Depression. It is heart-breaking watching someone you love struggle and I began to realise how little I knew about mental health. I was angry because I didn’t understand why I hadn’t been taught more in school. What shocked me most was the way people spoke about mental health and the massive fear and avoidance around the topic. I decided to set up Mind Out Theatre with the aim to challenge societal stigmas and to provide a platform for discussion. I teamed up with Madeleine Day, who also has a lot of insight into mental health and we began to find a cast to devise a story. We workshopped scenes and then I wrote ‘Think’.
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Definitely! I couldn’t think of a more vital time for theatre than now! I’m not going to claim to know loads about politics or society but I do know that we are in a great state of unrest and I think it is important to keep conversations open and accessible to everyone. I like to ‘Think’ that our show opens a dialogue with the audience, providing a topic for discussion, as opposed to supplying an opinion to take or leave. This is my favourite kind of theatre and I hope the space for public discussion of ideas in performance continues to grow.
How did you become interested in making performance?
I trained as an Actor and always knew I wanted to make my own work; to be able to ‘say’ something through theatre. My sisters battle with Anorexia was the catalyst because I knew what I wanted to ‘say’ then. I knew I wanted to raise awareness about mental health in an accessible way.
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We approached it through a naturalistic lens initially and then with the discovery of our character Ana, who represents Anorexia we began to add a stylised element to give the audience another route into the story. We also have two songs within the piece and all our transitions involve music which adds another layer of dramatization.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is my writing and directorial debut.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that the audience will get an authentic insight into life in an inpatient mental health unit. I’m hoping we will educate about Anorexia Nervosa and Bi-Polar Depression and promote kindness; inspiring people to listen to others struggles without judgement.
I would also like the audience to laugh; to realise that although our characters may be in a dark place they are humans who like to joke around too. You cannot have the dark without the light.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
When writing, I kept the dialogue pretty sparse to allow the actors to find the subtext because this is much truer to life. This is how I hope we bring authenticity to our production.

When it comes to the comedy of the piece, it is still a dark comedy and so, if the actors fully commit to the truth of the situation the audience should find it funny. The character, Molly, has no filter and so, as she verbally diarrhoeas her every thought, the audience begin to relax and realise they don’t need to fear our topic of mental health, allowing them to laugh at and with our endearing patients.

About Mind Out Theatre:
We are an emerging company of young, diverse actors of different ethnicities and backgrounds, with the shared aim to affect change and promote positive messages.
Mind Out Theatre challenge views and societal stereotypes through theatre, giving a voice to those who struggle to be heard and providing a platform for discussion. We believe in expression without judgement and that everybody deserves to be listened to.

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