Monday, 23 July 2018

Lost in Dramaturgy: Lucy Danser @ Edfringe 2018

First of all, how do you define mental health? What does the term mean to you - do you have a social model of sanity, for example, or is it concerned with neural atypical conditions?

This is a tough question to kick off with! I imagine people like myself who both suffer with a mental health condition and are working actively to make it easier to discuss the topic think about this more than others so my thoughts are many and varied! For me mental health used to mean that you were suffering from some sort of impaired thinking that affected how you viewed yourself or the world - so things like depression, anorexia, OCD etc. I never equated it with atypical neural conditions such as autism or ADHD. 

Nowadays I understand that it's impossible to define mental health based on social models because what's considered odd or different in one country can be totally normal in another and therefore it's not a real measure of sanity or wellness. So now I would lean towards defining mental health as something that is mostly concerned wth neural atypical conditions but just to complicate things I also believe that all people, regardless of whether they are considered neurologically divergent or not, have the potential at some point in their life to suffer with their mental health. 

It is, after all, just another facet of our overall health, albeit one that gets less attention than physical health. Though there is of course a difference between that and a persistent, life-altering condition. 

What areas of mental health are you looking at in the performance?

The performance focuses on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. More specifically it looks at challenging the existing stereotypes and ignorance around OCD by telling the story of Felicity, a 21 year old girl, and how the disorder has shaped her life. Because mental health is often such an insular experience we felt that we wanted to show the experiences of those around the sufferer, who are also affected. So the play looks at Felicity's own experiences and also how, over the years, the disorder has impacted her mother's life and their relationship. 

In what ways do you hope that  your play can help the audience to move forward in their understanding and actions towards a greater sense of mental good health?

The play is not intended to be any sort of a
soapbox type experience or an undercover lecture about OCD. Instead it's a very human story based on my own experiences and developed by a company with a variety of experiences and opinions about mental health. Our main aim is that people are engaged with the characters and the story and enjoy the theatrical experience.

Of course though my additional hope is that, for many people, it's the first time they've seen OCD portrayed in this way, and that it cuts through all the generalisations about the disorder - you know, that it's about germs and hand washing, lining up things neatly or checking the oven is turned off. It can be a very serious neurological disorder that ruins lives but, for so many people, it's a flippant expression 'Oh I'm so OCD'. If we can get through to a handful of people who think - 'Oh I never really considered it was more than being tidy', that'll be a win. In terms of actions: we believe that people are good. If they learn from the play they'll consider their words and actions in the future. We're also collaborating with ocd action and OCD UK on creating a downloadable pack with more information that people can access after the show if they want to learn more. 

And given the high pressure nature of the Fringe, do you have any ideas about positive self-care during August in Edinburgh?
We do! It's naturally so difficult to stay healthy at the Fringe but we are even more serious about it this year because of the topic of the play and our writer and actor both having OCD. We've created a self-care document full of Fringe tips that we'd be happy to share with you. A core part of that has been the importance of accommodation and healthy eating. 

We've organised accommodation for our team that's not too far but also not too central to the hubbub of the festival to ensure that everyone has their own space, a clean living area, access to a kitchen and a place that's calm and quiet. Everyone has had the option to have a friend or family member visit them during the Fringe and I'm delighted that my puppy has accepted my invitation to stay for two weeks! 

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