Friday, 27 July 2018

Welcome to Dramaturgy Co: Hope Kennedy-Smith

Having depression is a full time job – YEAH, NO KIDDING!

Do you hate your boss? Do you hate the company you work for? Ever feel that you’re not valuable? That you haven’t lived up to all you should be? A job at Self Co will suit you perfectly!

Coming all the way from Aotearoa New Zealand Theatrewhack presents Welcome to Self Co, an absurdist comedy from 15th-26th August at The Pheonix, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Fest

Edinburgh Fringe Festival details
Wednesday August 15-26th, 5.15pm at The Phoenix

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?

I think mental wellbeing means living a fulfilled life. And I think we all know what living a fulfilling life means. It means spending your time doing something that you enjoy and that gives your life meaning. It also means not needing to worry about how you will house or feed yourself, or care for yourself should you become ill. It means having strong and loving relationships. Being connected to your community and the people around you so that you are empowered to take action should you encounter injustice.

Although mental health issues can come about genetically or after trauma I think that if we had a healthier society which actually cared for everyone then the rising rates of depression and anxiety would fall. Imagine if people didn't need to worry about how to house or feed themselves, or care for themselves should they become ill, or have to spend the majority of their working hours in a job they don't even like.

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

Mental health issues in Welcome to Self Co range from depression to anxiety and panic attacks to suicide and low self esteem. The play explores in a very humorous way the effect of toxic work environments on our mental wellbeing. Depression and anxiety make people feel powerless. When going through it you feel you lack any power to change how you feel. Welcome to Self Co explores this feeling of powerlessness through the setting of a corporate office space, a place where people can often have little power.  

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?   
I hope that after seeing Welcome to Self Co the audience leaves with a better understanding of what depression and anxiety feels like for those going through it, but also one of it's causes - the way many of us work today. Hopefully people leave thinking that maybe we shouldn't be putting up with the pressure our current system is putting on us. Coming from my own experience and many people I know, workplace bullying, precarious hours and demeaning tasks have a serious effect on mental wellbeing.  

And given the high pressure nature of the Fringe, do you have any ideas about positive self-care during August in Edinburgh.

Given that our whole team suffers from mental health issues we try and support and be kind to each other as much as possible. Coming from Aotearoa New Zealand we are also hoping our jetlag will have worn off before our first show as I certainly need good sleep (and exercise) to keep me functioning. Taking part in Edinburgh Fringe is a dream come true for us so hopefully it'll be an intense but manageable experience. I'm sure we'll get overwhelmed at times but I'm certain the buzz of the festival will keep us uplifted.   

Director Patrick Graham (Pardon Me Alan Turing; Hippolytus Veiled) and writer and actor Hope Kennedy-Smith draw from their own experiences with mental illness for this dark comedy, which offers a riotous snapshot into a dysfunctional office environment.

At a time when precarious and unpaid work, zero-hour contracts, stress-fuelled toxic workplaces are commonplace, and increased rates of depression are on the rise Welcome to SelfCo challenges audiences to not only come to a deeper understanding of what depression and anxiety feels like for those experiencing it, but also one of its causes – the way we work today.

Co starring Michaela Spratt as the awful boss we’ve all had, and introducing Tatiana Daniels as the “manic” in manic depression in her first time acting on the stage, Welcome to SelfCo’s entire cast and crew have all lived and survived through mental illness - and are perfectly placed to show you exactly why that’s hilarious.

'In my experience, some of the best plays are the ones that are open to interpretation. They move us beyond the theatre to the discussion afterwards, and to new perspectives. I found Welcome to Self Co to be one of those shows. Inventive, witty and satirical, the play centres on Louise, a young woman who, after being hounded by an inner voice telling her she “must be productive”, finds herself a new office job. As the audience soon discovers, however, this is not just any job. The job interview swears a commitment to a life of stress and Louise’s first assigned task is to give herself a panic attack...It’s funny for sure, and it’s superbly acted, but more importantly it opens up dialogue on a much needed conversation. It’s worth seeing - whatever your interpretation may be', Nicola Corner, Mental Health Foundation

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