Not I / Touretteshero

Jess Thom’s performance of Samuel Beckett’s Not I breaks down not only the text through the interjections of ‘biscuit’ throughout, but the sense that this modernist monologue must be enjoyed by a soberly pensive audience that then talk about it afterwards. Here the audience are introduced and welcomed by Thom, who outlines the parameters of the project and introduces those not familiar with her Tourette’s Syndrome to its manifestation and impact on her performance. The integrated BSL of Charmaine Wombwell is a constant visual score to everything that occurs. There is preparation and a welcome before the performance. After we’re settled, we sit in the dark where we feel the performer raised into position eight feet above the stage, and listen to the rustle of the hood that obscures all but her mouth in accordance with Beckett’s stage instructions. Thom delivers the rapid text clearly and powerfully, as strong a performance and as necessary as any other.

This performance of Not I reclaims Mouth (the central character within the monologue) as a disabled figure, one that Thom states she found instantly familiar. As Mouth narrates the rising tide of words that bursts from her, Thom discusses how it reflects her own experience as someone with Tourette’s. After performing the abstract and oblique monologue, Thom comes back down and sits with us, asking our opinions and answering any questions that we might have about the text or her performance. It’s an intensely open performance of an often-impenetrable text, one that takes it down off some imaginary pedestal and asks its audience to chat about how it can speak to us today. Whilst there has been some pushback recently against the renovation and repurposing of ‘classic’ dramatic texts, exemplified by the firing of Emma Rice from the Globe and the statements of David Hare, Touretteshero’s version of Not I reasserts the value of rethinking new contexts for great writing. Continual reinvention is always preferable to staid orthodoxy.

-       Lewis Church

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Not I - Touretteshero

Not I Audience Information (BAC) 

Jess Thom on Not I - Guardian

Emma Rice Bows Out as Artistic Director of The GlobeNew York Times

An Open Letter to David HareExeunt

Venus and Adonis // Noontide Sun and Christopher Hunter

Incidents of women forcing men to have sex is are perhaps rarely discussed, and yet Shakespeare wrote about it back in 1593 in his poem Venus and Adonis. The poem tells the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and her unrequited passion for Adonis, an extremely handsome young man who would rather go hunting than give in to her seduction. The poem concludes that because Venus’s attack on Adonis ended in his death, love from then on would involve pain and suffering.

Some say it isn’t love that hurts but the expectations that go with it. It is certainly true that all love does not hurt, but forced sex is not love. It is aggression. Although Venus believed her lust for Adonis was love, it was not. Anger, frustration, money worries…all can lead to physical abuse of a partner. Safeline.org.uk report that one in six men have been targets of rape or sexual abuse today. That’s 5 million men in the UK. It can happen to any man, of any age, race, class or sexual identity. Men can feel trapped and isolated by misinformation about male sexual abuse and rape, such as the false view that men can’t be raped and fears that sexual abuse can make you into an abuser.

The psychological harm caused by this sense of humiliation can be very harmful. In Adonis’s case, it led to death. For most men however, the effects, though severe, are not that extreme. In our culture, boys are socialized not to be victims. 'If I am a victim, can I then also be a man?' Tradition tells us big boys fight back.  They don’t call the police to report that they have been victimized, especially by a woman. It doesn’t fit the male tough guy stereotype. And so they minimize or deny what has happened.

That is why sexual assault against men is often not reported. An article in the Telegraph last March reported that female sex offences against men are viewed as a rare and peculiar phenomenon, but this is far from the truth. Determining how common female-perpetrated sexual offending is a very difficult task, but an international study last year found that although it constituted 2.2 per cent of sexual offences officially reported to the police, the rates discovered in victimizations studies were six times that amount. That means more than one in nine sexual offences are committed by women. Venus was not alone in her determination to force Adonis to make love to her. Indeed, it speaks to a long and troublesome tradition. 

- Lynn Ruth Miller

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

 

Venus and Adonis - Noontide Sun

Venus and Adonis - Folger Shakespeare Library

Safeline

Survivors UK

Why Boys Do Not Tell About Sexual Abuse - Psychology Today

Does Love Always Hurt? - Quora Topic

Female Sex Offenders - Telegraph

DollyWould // Sh!t Theatre

Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, was named after Dolly Parton, the country singer, who has a theme park in America, which is near the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center, which is sometimes known as a 'body farm'. Written down, the links between these things feel tenuous, but in Sh!t Theatre's DollyWould, they intermingle in a joyful and chaotic exploration of celebrity, fandom, duplication, preservation and decay.

When she was born, in 1996, Dolly the sheep had a white face, which indicated that she was indeed a clone (otherwise she would have had a black face like her surrogate mother). The research that produced her, at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, was exploring ways to introduce new genes into an animal. Already by the 1980s, scientists could do this in mice by manipulating embryonic stem cells, but such cells from larger mammals were not available, so cloning was a potential alternative for enhancing livestock. Today, genome editing tools like Crispr/Cas can be used much more easily to the same effect.

Dolly the sheep was cloned from two cells: one was an egg cell, the other an adult sheep's mammary gland cell. Mammary glands produce milk, whether in ovine udders or human breasts, and this, rather than any similarity between their hair, was why she was named after Dolly Parton. Essential to human life - all mammalian life, in fact - as well as to the Parton story, breasts are an integral part of this show. Through playing clips from media interviews over the years, DollyWould notes that Parton has endured much curiosity about her body, especially her breasts (are they natural or enhanced?), her weight and her sexuality. 

Dolly the sheep died in 2003. Juxtaposing the Dollys' stories with the body farm focuses attention on death, decay and whatever comes after. As for this show and what may come after, Sh!t Theatre seem intent on following Parton's own definition of success: 'Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, scare 'em a little bit and then leave'.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

DollyWould - Sh!t Theatre

The Life of Dolly - Roslin Institute

Towards Dolly: Edinburgh, Roslin and the Birth of Modern Genetics - Edinburgh University Library Centre for Research Collections 

What is Gene-Editing and How Does It Work? - Royal Society 

Dollywood

This Is What Happens When You Die - Mosaic

The Body Farm - Atlas Obscura

Yvette // Urielle Klein-Mekongo

Urielle Klein-Mekongo, and the character she has created, Yvette, are young. Urielle and Yvette are young, capable, smart and talented women, who share an immense story about Yvette’s childhood trauma, using multi-character monologue, a looped audio score, and a physical presence which is strong but vulnerable, both available to an audience’s gaze yet firmly beyond our grasp. Urielle and Yvette are young, as are all those who experience childhood abuse and sexual assault at a young age. 

Over the summer, the New York State Legislature failed, yet again, to pass the Child Victims Act – to extend the statute of limitations on child abuse cases - or even to bring the law to a vote. And while Yvette lives in the UK, age 13, and her portrayal by Klein-Mekongo is complicated, rich and multi-faceted, I couldn’t help thinking about the other young survivors of abuse who, unlike Yvette, lack the confidence, or means, or mental preparedness to confront their abuser in their lifetime, pursue legal justice, or even find coping mechanisms to deal with trauma.

Yvette is a portrait of a woman at the epicenter of a world heavy with –isms: racism, sexism, body fascism, classism, colorism. And as audience members, we watch with a sense of powerlessness, waiting, hoping for something to disrupt the trajectory which is not inevitable, but feels probable, in a world which rarely privileges or looks out for young people in any manner which is more than just disciplinarily. That Yvette's story exists at all is a tragedy in any society, but the fact that it is as common as it is is an absolute disgrace, and a reminder that these isms- particularly sexism - are deeply rooted and need to be dismantle at every turn. What is rare, though, is the image of such a trauma being performed with such strength, dignity and commitment - the audience can watch with horror what happens to Yvette while simultaneously finding Klein-Kemongo's performance a reminder of the power of storytelling.

- Brian Lobel

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Yvette - Urielle Klein-Mekongo

 On the New York State Child Victims Act - NY Daily News

Rates of Violent Crime and Sexual Offences - Office of National Statistics (UK)

Further Support: Rape Crisis England and Wales 

Race and Gender at Edinburgh Fringe: Excerpts from the Diary of a Black Woman at the Edinburgh Fringe by Selina Thompson - Exeunt

Hyperthymesia // Cece Otto

In the world today, there are between twelve and twenty-five documented cases of hyperthymesia, also known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). People living with this, are able to remember most of their life events. Their recall can be incredibly detailed including the weather, events, emotions and sensations of any given day. All these memories are mentally catalogued and remembered with astounding accuracy. Vivid sequences of events are almost trapped in time, living forever as they are…unaltered by the usual process of re-remembering an event from the distance of time passing.

Cece Otto delivers a one woman-show inspired by these individuals. We glean a sense a life never forgotten; cascading in all its happiness, joy, shame, disgust, embarrassment and sadness. Most affecting is the reveal that the emotions attached to these memories remain potent (demonstrated by Otto's character revealing they are still furious about something that happened when she was five years old). 

It feels like lots of models for increasing a sense of wellbeing (mindfulness, meditation, yoga) encourage one to be present and/or ‘let go’. Difficult or traumatic events hook themselves into our memory and are often re-triggered by other, separate but related circumstances. Revisiting these events to understand them and find a little breathing space, the tiniest bit of relief is already quite an undertaking that can require the sensitive mediation of a mental health professional. So, what happens when you live with hyperthymesia and it is a near impossibility to ever let go of emotional attachments to a memory? How do you come to terms with a difficult moment when it lives on in the sharp focus of the present? Might a person with hyperthymesia relate to lying, fictions or speculation differently, because their own mind has no need for such inventions when telling their own stories?

An infallible memory challenges much of our understanding that recalling memory is predominately a process of recalling ever-changing versions of that memory. Remembering everything as it is-was, crams a brain full. Many people with hyperthymesia stem their barrage of memories by writing them down. Something about visually storing memories by giving form and language must help contain them. Hyper-real by comparison to someone living without hyperthymesia, these memories line up, attentive and unimaginably close. Permanently in order. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Hyperthymesia - Cece Otto

Total Recall: The People Who Never Forget - Guardian

9 Facts About People Who Remember Everything About Their Lives - Mental Floss

Meet The Man Who Remembers Everything - NBC News

Remembering Everything: Superpower or Burden? - Plaid Zebra 

Memory Is Inherently Fallible And That’s a Good Thing - Technology Review

Eve // Jo Clifford and National Theatre of Scotland

Eve represents one of a number of shows that documents trans experiences at the fringe in 2017, its monologue format flashing back through the life and thoughts of its writer and performer Jo Clifford. Upsettingly familiar narratives emerge over the course of its highly personal narrative. Of gender specialists as the gatekeepers to treatment. Of Inadequate provision for those seeking help, and shame and oppression preventing others from ever revealing who they are or would like to be.

There are multiple levels of history here, from 1950s boarding schools and 1960s adolescence to 1990s lectureships and parenthood. We are told that this is the ninety-first play Clifford has written, and the craft and the weight of this experience leave her personal narrative technically and theatrically precise and poised. The language is honed, every word, to reflect the odd moments that make up a life. The structure of Eve similarly avoids a linear chronology, living in the medium of ‘queer time’ referred to throughout. The space of the theatre, like the space of memory, is separate from the everyday progression through the world.

Whilst the content is deeply personal, Clifford’s biographical tracing gestures to larger debates around trans identities and the dissolution of old binaries and absolutes. As much as Trump, the governor of North Carolina and other forces of regression might try to beat back the tide, through continued work and determined sharing, artists like Clifford, audiences, and especially young people are working to ensure that trans identities continue to be acknowledged. It is a generational privilege and obligation to ensure that oppression lessens. As the old quote goes, from Theordore Parker through Martin Luther King Jr and Obama, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’. But it must be bent, for justice and tolerance comes from hard work and determined engagement in a process of change.

- Lewis Church

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

EveJo Clifford

A Look at Trans Shows at the FringeThe List

A Vision for Change: Acceptance Without Exception for Trans People - Stonewall

Trans Mission: How to Tell Trans Stories on Stage and Screen – Fury, for the Guardian

A Comprehensive List of Trans Autobiographies – TG Forum

Hymen Manoeuvre // Evelyn Mok

During her teenage years, Evleyn Mok protected her hymen with ‘a ninja-like focus’. Such candid humour effervesces throughout her show Hymen Manoeuvre. Mok weaves a multi-stranded show around her heritage, generational differences, sex, body shaming, and the personal/political intersections of institutionalised racism, classism and sexism. In the intimate setting of Bunker 1 (Pleasance), Mok losing her virginity at twenty-five is the story tussled into the foreground with plenty of awkward interaction with male audience members. Mok repeating the word ‘vagina’ or ‘my vagina’ feeling palpably radical to some.

And there it is - the discomfort that some may feel at a woman of colour speaking about her vagina a lot, giving a detailed description of her breasts out of a bra, preferring cake to her ‘first time’, shrieking a little, taking up space like she is meant to be there, being funny and maybe - more disruptive in a comedy show - not being funny…

Mok’s writing upends expectations. She critiques racist, sexist, fat-phobic stereotypes by teasing, unravelling and morphing them. More often than not, after a story that sees her bemused, abused or disempowered, her punchlines land the agency firmly back in her hands. This feminist act of claiming power is one in need of tireless repetition to counter the daily aggressors - the manspreaders, the revenge porn video senders, the stand up comedians who spill the beans to their other stand up mates about sleeping with a 25 year old virgin, these mates who then make comedy routines about it…The latter happened to Mok. Her intimacies and right over them became appropriated into someone else’s material. 

Patriarchy teaches girls to be nervous that boys will be trading secrets about them i.e. school gossip or sexting made public. Women are taught simultaneously to guard our bodies for fear of humiliation but loosen them up just the right amount for male pleasure. Mok’s is the too familiar tale of public shaming and Hymen Manoeuvre could be seen as Mok’s way of wrestling back control and making sure people hear her experiences on her own terms. 

As she hurtles us through her autobiography, what opens up is patriarchy’s messages that there is something essentially shameful about the female form and female pleasure. It seems to be only some time after losing her virginity, that Mok asks herself if she had good time. She did not. The suppression of talking about female pleasure within sex education and wider media accompanies the shame many girls and women feel about their bodies. What’s more, female bodies frequently become funny - something to draw ridicule from and, as in the case of Mok, this humour is leveraged to assert male social power. 

Oppressive power structures take so much multi-stranded work to undo. In tales that continually resist collapse into any singularity, we glimpse the burden of this effort. She wonders whether by making the show she is indulging in her shame. She shares the incessant, looping questions she has about someone’s intentions when she first encounters them. At times, there is a sharpness to her tone and the room is silent. The shield of her wit sometimes slips and we as audience are sitting quietly with someone un-filtering themselves and letting us in. Maybe to be this funny and defiant, you have to cut close to your own bones. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Hymen ManoeuvreEvelyn Mok 

The Pleasure Principle - International Woman’s Health Coalition

Bitch Media

Eight Women Of Color Comedians on Sexism, Racism and Making People Laugh - Wear Your Voice

Misogyny on Facebook: A Rant About ‘Vagina Cleavage’ - Gal Dem

Triage! A Nursing Cabaret // Zuleika Khan

Love your nurse. 

Fight for your nurse. 

Support your nurse’s selfcare.

Respect your nurse’s training and intelligence.

Recognise your nurse’s incredible emotional labour.

Make sure your nurse gets a raise. 

Stop buying ‘Sexy Nurse’ outfits (Zuli can, and does look awesome, but most y’all should not until stereotypes of nurses are destroyed)

Prioritise your nurse every once in a while so you say ‘Nurses and Doctors’, because it’s fucked up that it’s ALWAYS ‘Doctors and Nurses’.

Talk honestly with your nurse – they can see right through you.

Help nurses resist burnout – physically and emotionally.

Strike in solidarity with your nurse.

Learn from your nurse.

Laugh with your nurse.

Obey your nurse.

Zuleika Khan has much to teach the world about nursing and the attitudes, stereotypes, conscious and unconscious biases and politics which affect how the profession of nursing is discussed, funded, berated, demeaned and looked over inside the medicine/health care hierarchy. But despite the mistreatment, the lack of time for selfcare, and the emotional labor which comes from such intensive patient experience, Khan’s world is one which seems motivated and inspired by her profession. Underneath each comedic portrayal of a patient or jibe about a doctor’s patronizing glances, is a dedication to a cause, a commitment to her family’s healthcare lineage (Khan grew up in her family’s medical surgery) and a love for patients. 

The UK (alongisde much of the world) has a crisis in nursing, as caused by NHS cuts, public sector pay freezes, Brexit on the horizon, and a general lack of care for some of our society’s most essential first responders. When Khan first appears in a ‘sexy nurse’ costume – and reveals the very-believable fact that ‘nurse’ is the number one sexual fantasy/fetish – there is a stark reminder of how casual sexism and deeply embedded misogyny prevent the development of a truly non-hierarchical or holistic healthcare system. If nursing is gendered as female, and we still underpay, under-respect and under-acknowledge so many professions gendered as female… well, how can we expect our nurses to have time for the critical work of selfcare, to feel pride in their work, to feel as part of a team helping the whole community. 

Khan uses her Triage! cabaret as medicine: sometimes it burns going down, sometimes it makes you woozy, sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it makes you emotional.  Khan uses Triage! to collect her allies (the nurses in the audience nodded with vigor throughout), humorously shame those who don’t know what a speculum does (or looks like), and inspire new, more radical perspectives on nursing, a profession which – whether we engage with it everyday or only in a crisis – remains critically important and critically under-supported.  

- Brian Lobel

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Triage! A Nursing Cabaret - Zuleika Khan

Brexit and Nursing - Guardian

No Show - Gender Stereotypes in Circus

Nursing and Striking - Independent

Selina Thompson on Self-Care at the Fringe - Exeunt

On Nursing and Burnout - National Nurses United

PreScribed (A Life Written for Me) // Viv Gordon

In PreScribed, made by Viv Gordon based on verbatim text from interviews with GPs and research at the University of Bristol, there is an air of nostalgia for how healthcare used to be. The ideal seems to resemble the life of Dr John Sassall, an English country doctor whose dedicated, all-consuming approach to caring for the people in his community was captured by John Berger in A Fortunate Man (1967). But, as Dr Gavin Francis has written, 'in today’s culture of working-time-directives and the commercialisation of disease it would be almost impossible to sustain'. (It may have been almost impossible in the 1960s too, if Sassall hadn't had what was then called manic depression).

The voices of some of today's GPs, chosen and channelled by Gordon onstage as a medical 'everywoman' character, speak about lifetimes of (over) achievement, trying to meet parents' expectations, years and years of study. Once qualified, they then found the profession was even harder than they'd expected. They are constantly being squeezed by NHS funding cuts, the churn of government policies and the ever-decreasing time they have to spend with each patient. No wonder their own mental health can suffer as a result, but who can they turn to for help? Their GP? 'Telling someone who does the exact same job as you that you can't manage is impossible'.

Hearing only the doctors' point of view risks making the show a bit like a one-sided tennis match. The only other character on stage, the practice manager, remains silent throughout and patients are initially represented by jellies on plates, vulnerable and easily smashed. There is little counter argument or context. For example, the doctors believe their profession has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK. This is based on research, but in fact, the latest statistics show that male doctors are at a lower risk of suicide than the general population, and while female healthcare workers are at a higher risk, this mostly relates to nurses. This is not to diminish the importance of GPs getting support whenever they need it, but current mental health services in the UK fail many more people than just those who work in them.

There is no doubt, however, that increasing pressure on GPs and other healthcare workers while ignoring their own health needs can only damage the NHS. We can't go back to 1967, but for the future of the NHS to be sustainable, we need to support it properly, as well as the people who make it work.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

PreScribed (A Life Written for Me) - Viv Gordon

Who Cares for the Clinicians? Spiers et al - British Journal of General Practice (2016) 

NHS Spending Per Person Will be Cut Next Year, Ministers Confirm - The Independent 

John Berger's A Fortunate Man: A Masterpiece of WitnessThe Observer 

Mental Health Staff Recruitment Plan for England - BBC News

Suicide by Occupation, England: 2011-2015 - Office for National Statistics (2017) 

Help if You're Feeling Suicidal - The Samaritans

Fix // Worklight Theatre

In a blend of text and songs we follow three characters, each made up of a collage of the various people Worklight spoke to during a two year research period. The broad topic of addiction is filtered through the lens of behavioural addictions and these determined performers navigate communicating the science of how dependencies manifest in the brain, alongside their intimate character portraits.

The trio preface their findings with the message that the numerous range of causes, impacts and treatment for addictions are ‘up for debate’ and what unfolds before the audience seems to be about humans chasing connections - neurological, emotional and physical. These connections are inherent in the process of social bonding and evolution and yet, frequently disrupted by the loneliness of addiction. Or rather, the loneliness of disconnecting from family, friends and/or the gradual but entrenched process of political and economical disenfranchisement, which then fuels addiction.  

Digestible science-y bits about the habit forming centres of the brain, which addiction alters, travel the audience into the impossibly complex matrix of neurones that explode our soft tissue into a mess of cravings. These longings become more concrete with each cycle of repeated fixes and pauses between fixes. 

The show grazes the surface yet provides a compassionate glimpse into the scope and consequences of addiction. Near the end, there are undertones of devastation in an assertion that ‘you can’t cure this…no one is ever completely fixed’. What springs to mind is how long term care, compassion and the continual re-understandings needed to treat addictions, each sit uncomfortably within impatient, globalised capitalism. Short sharp treatment courses, 6 NHS therapy sessions, TV talk show hosts-cum-doctors

So, how do we make more time? How do we replenish healthcare resources? How do we nurture rather than rupture emotional connections in order to counter getting a fix, a release, an escape from destructive patterning and habits? 

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Fix - Worklight Theatre

Behavioural Addiction vs Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views - US National Library of Medicine

Action on Addiction

Codependency Help & Treatment - Rehab & Recovery

Addiction and Recovery

Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman // Carnesky Productions

On Monday 21 August, the new moon passed in front of the sun and a partial solar eclipse was visible from Edinburgh before the sun set (clouds aside). Ironically, perhaps, for a show about menstrual cycles and lunar rituals, Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman had a day off on Monday. But perhaps the power of the new moon temporarily conquering the sun would make it too dangerous to perform, anyway.

In this cabaret show performed by six "menstruants", sword swallower MisSa Blue understands the risks. She discovered the hard way that it is not only the womb and vagina that change in the menstrual cycle - there are oestrogen receptors all over the body, so most organs are affected by the fluctuating hormone levels in some way. On one recent occasion, MisSa says her throat had swollen just enough to not leave room for her usual blade, and her oesophagus was punctured during her act. So now she swallows different length swords depending on the time of the month. The 28 swords are lined up at the back of the stage throughout the show, their handles elegantly showing the phases of the moon.

Dr Marisa Carnesky studies the significance and symbolism of menstruation in different times, traditions and cultures, often involving magic, mysticism, and rites of renewal and fertility. Today, menstruation is both ordinary (a large proportion of the world's population experiences it) and taboo. In some cultures, menstruating women are not allowed to be in the same space or use the same things as everybody else, often putting them in unsafe and unhealthy situations. Carnesky and her fellow show-women have been engaged in experiments to reclaim menstruation as a vital female experience, to be celebrated with new rituals of their own devising.

In particular, Carnesky says she wants all women to synchronise their menstrual cycles, to harness the power of being in sync with the planet and each other to start a more political revolution. While scientific research suggests it is mostly by chance that women's menstrual cycles appear to fall in sync when they spend time together, this may be because scientists haven't studied women who are consciously trying to synchronise, either with each other or the moon.

What science is coming to understand, however, is that menstrual blood is truly powerful stuff. Not only would it be much more efficient to collect menstrual blood for certain medical tests, rather than drawing blood from blood vessels, but menstrual blood is also rich in stem cells that could potentially be used for research or even as the basis for new medical treatments. Maybe that will be a new kind of menstrual magic to harness in the future.

- Michael Regnier

 


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman - Carnesky Productions

Seeing the Eclipse on Monday - Edinburgh Evening News

Physiological Changes Associated with the Menstrual Cycle (Farage et al, 2009) Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 64(1) 

Blood Speaks - Mosaic

Do Women's Periods Really Synch? - The Conversation

Characterisation of Menstrual Stem Cells (Alcayaga-Miranda et al 2015) - Stem Cell Research and Therapy

Tests Using Menstrual Blood Could Help Detect Diseases in Women - Healthline

Show Up // Peter Michael Marino

Woody Allen’s statement, made years ago, that ‘80 percent of life is showing up’, is the theory behind Peter Michael Marino’s show, Show Up. The production is more a happening for the audience than something to sit and watch. As a group, they are making something happen just because they are there. Marino, too, believes that showing up is most of the battle, not just for entertainment but for living a good life. ‘Doing is so much easier than thinking about it’, he says.

Research has shown that he has a good point. He provides a wild, unpredictable ride for his audience commenting on his own social anxiety and performance challenges. When the improvisation begins to happen, one can see the visible changes in audience attitude. They become absorbed in creating a brand new original show based on their own random contributions before the actual story begins. When each person becomes involved in thinking of incidents from their childhood, about addiction or their love life, they are focusing on sharing with others rather than whatever personal problems they might have. Any anxiety or shyness evaporates because everyone is involved together in a group endeavour. In fact, any situation where a group works together builds confidence in the individual members. By including his audience in his production, Marino creates an unforgettable experience and turns audiences into participants and co-creators.

Marino tells his audience that creating these stories from incidents they provide lifts him from depression - the unsaid implication is that it does for everyone involved in the show as well. Psychologists tell us he is right. When you’re depressed, the tendency is to withdraw and isolate. Even reaching out to close family members and friends can be tough. Compound that with the feelings of shame and the guilt you may feel at neglecting your relationships. Unless you reach out to others, you’re in a downward spiral you’re unable to stop. This dark cloud need not be permanent. The good news is that social support is absolutely essential to depression recovery. Staying connected to other people and the outside world will make a world of difference in your mood and outlook. In showing up to Show Up, people find themselves totally involved with a group of strangers in an enjoyable project.  They love the show but what they do not realize is that they also ARE the show.

- Lynn Ruth Miller

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Show Up - Peter Michael Marino

Woody Allen on Showing Up

Social Anxiety - MOODJUICE Self-Help Guide (NHS)

Audience Participation - Cas McCullough

Reaching Out to Cure Depression - helpguide.org

Together Alone // Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

The space is bare - white dance floor laid down in a black box theatre. Three scribbles of white florescent lights are suspended near the back. Within this abstracted space, the nude figures of choreographers and performers Zoltan Vakulya and Chen-Wei Lee resist static objecthood and make their first contact. This sparse arena hosts two people musing upon one another, gently meeting through touch. 

Our non-verbal communication/haptic communication develops so that we may know ourselves, others and the world through touch. Haptic knowledges are a key source material for dancing and coming to understand the world non-verbally in this way is shared across many species. It can be argued that such touch-led perceptions hold a lower status that our rational, verbal modes of communicating, relating and coming to know our environments. In contrast, this dance of swings, curves and counterbalances prioritises sensorial knowledge. As Vakulya and Lee’s bodies ride the momentum that their bodies conjure up from the ground; catching, sharing and releasing gravity between them, constant touch becomes a driving force. 

In their deft and assured movement, the sculptures ‘We Two’ and ‘Embrace’ by Gaylord Ho come to mind. In these works, contact points between two figures are foregrounded over the rest of the forms. Sometimes parts of the body are absent, further highlighting the sites of connection. There is a similar experience watching Together Alone - flickerings of flesh meeting are highlighted as bodies organise and re-organise themselves around points of contact, orbiting each other's centres. 

A question about pleasure hangs in the air. So too do associations with touch that can heal, support, communicate, trigger sensations of violence, of love and of care. 

A memory comes to me of Nancy Stark-Smith dancing in Fall After Newton, specifically, the lines her body swings through space.

At one point, Vakulya and Lee’s shadows are cast on the floor next to them. These shadows make the contact between their iliac crests blend into one another. The shadows are more porous than their bodies are and my question about pleasure begins to be answered. I think about sweat, temperature, the sensation of how it must feel to be so close to another and swing arms while exhaling warmth into the face of the person opposite you. I think of the places bodies fit together and how this interlocking can fuel movement. Eye to chin, armpit to kneecap, nape to forearm; each link propelling the search for the next. 

Charleston-like steps appear and bodies reveal their buoyancy, laughing and shimmering with abandon. In the closing parts, everything slows. The figures knot and unknot. They return to sculptural forms but their combination is now twin-like, pod-like and into an amorphous biped creature. 

Vakulya and Lee continue, sensitively indulging in their articulations with soft gazes, until they finish, spinning into black.

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Taiwan Season: Together Alone

Meet the Artists: Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

Fall After Newton Clip (1987)

Embrace - Gaylord Ho

We Two - Gaylord Ho

The Power of Touch - Psychology Today

Haptic Communication - Changing Minds

Haptic Perception - WiseGeek

Keeping My Kidneys // Mindy Raf

Shows at the Fringe are often ABOUT a singular thing: there’s a show about grief, a show about virginity, a show about anxiety, a show about coming out. Perhaps it is a marketing or PR strategy which makes the show ABOUT a singular thing, as its makes it easier to digest and to sell tickets, or it reflects the kernel of an idea which started an artist’s journey on a particular work. If Mindy Raf used the death of her mother as a starting point for her storytelling/stand up set Keeping My Kidneys, her detours, her ramblings, her journeys down the rabbit hole demonstrate that this is anything but just a show about a singular thing.  Instead, Raf makes a bold case for understanding how we are always all of our identities, and how these identities intersect, inform, challenge and support each other in exciting ways.

Along Raf’s journey through self-discovery and self-love are pointed and important revelations about the challenging and absurd realities of the American healthcare system (and its inability to deal with multiple health needs in a holistic way), midwestern Jewishness and family, and marginalized sexual identities (with her reflections on polyamory and pansexuality). As the fight for recognition and equality for LGBTQI+ people internationally and in the UK continues, Raf highlights the continued discomfort for those who fall (or stay) out of the mainstream – with playful conversations about biphobia and normative monogamy which remind us of how far we have to go in terms of true self-determination and pride. Raf challenges the idea that when we are dealing with one issue, or fighting one fight, we are not still engaged in a multitude of questions, oppressions, desires and conflicts. This confluence of influence is what makes Keeping My Kidneys unique in its storytelling: Raf is completely resistant to this being a show ABOUT one thing. Take it all, or leave it all, excitingly Raf has faith in her audience (and perhaps the world in 2017) that they can handle the complex nature of reality. 

- Brian Lobel

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Keeping My Kidneys - Mindy Raf

Polyamory’s Cultural Moment - NPR 

Ongoing Healthcare Debate and the Anxiety It Causes - New York Times

Cannabis Lube

Deathbed Promises on Reddit

Lena Waithe on Master of None and Coming Out Over Time - Vulture

Descent // A Moment White Productions

In Ancient Greece, tragedy was when a character fell to an inevitable fate, usually the consequence of some small mistake in their past. Attempts to escape or thwart this fate only locked them in more tightly. By this definition, Descent is a true tragedy, except that the past mistake was not the central character's but perhaps a small, undetectable error in his genetic code that made him susceptible to dementia.

For Rob, it starts with the loss of his pen, hinting innocuously at memory problems but actually foreshadowing the fundamental loss of identity that dementia will bring. The turning point is when he loses his temper with his daughter over a trivial board game. He accuses her of cheating, calls her a bitch. Research shows we perceive that someone with dementia has changed not when they lose their memories, but when their moral compass goes haywire. 'That's not him', Rob's daughter tells us.

Rob feels himself 'metamorphosing', referring explicitly to Kafka's novella. There is now a hard shell that stops him caring so much about other people's feelings. But it is not only Rob who is in descent. His wife, Cathy, is undergoing her own transformation as she takes on the responsibility of caring for her husband even as he starts caring less for her. The actors playing the couple in this production make their metamorphoses stark, seeming to age years under the stage lights even as the lights in both their eyes go dim.

Rob experiences paranoia - he suspects everyone of moving or even hiding his pen - and is at times physically aggressive towards Cathy. These are common, if less well-known symptoms of dementia. There are hints, too, at the incontinence and loss of physical control that follows. Rob and Cathy are still in their 50s - the prime of life. They were not expecting to have to consider carers and care homes. About 4% of people with dementia are under 65, and it can bring different challenges to living with dementia in later life. It can be harder to recognise and diagnose, and can mean more impact on younger families. Cathy starts grieving Rob before he dies. He has already gone, and the rest is inevitable.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Descent

Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease - Alzheimer's Research UK

Symptoms - Alzheimer's Society

Carers: Looking After Yourself - Alzheimer's Society 

Neurodegeneration and IdentityPsychological Science (2015) 

The Inevitability of Tragedy - Edge Induced Cohesion (2013) 

Give Me Your Love // Ridiculusmus

Being stuck in a box is the central image of Give Me Your Love, both as a metaphor and as a literal attempt by the central character to deal with PTSD from military service. A former member of the Welsh Guards haunted by his experiences in Iraq, Zach hides within and speaks from inside his pockmarked cardboard shelter. This first box is contained within another, the grimy walls of a dilapidated flat, another four walls to keep people out and away from his damage. The voices which intrude from the outside corridor, a wife and a friend, are trying to offer help without adequate support from a government that makes cynical use of its soldiers.

Combat stress, PTSD and other mental health issues are endemic to veterans, compounded today by the nefarious project of austerity and a culture of silence (particularly for men). The turn towards self-medication, like the self-prescribed MDMA cure pursued by Zach, occurs when other effective treatments are unavailable. As mental health services are cut by governments, defunded and under-supported, more and more people are cut adrift, even when their injuries are the result of their national service. MDMA has proved remarkably successful in clinical trials, but such initiatives occupy a bleak confluence of political blindspots – the trauma of war and the scars it leaves, the effectiveness of a drug long demonised and the recognition that what has already been offered has been markedly inadequate.

Whilst men and women are still sent to kill in the name of a nation, they are owed the support and medicine to deal with the after-effects of this responsibility. Whether, as Zach’s delirious monologue suggests, he witnessed a heinous decapitation or is simply traumatised by the lack of action during his tour, clinical innovation through projects like MDMA therapy deserve the support of the countries that sends it citizens to work as soldiers. War is hell, but a purgatory of distress and flashbacks is no acceptable journey home.

-       Lewis Church

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Give Me Your LoveRidiculusmus

Combat Stress – The Veteran's Mental Health Charity

Treating PTSD with MDMA-Assisted Therapy

MDMA for PTSD?Live Science

Concerned Clinicians and Researchers Network

War Neuroses: Netley Hospital, 1918 – Wellcome Archive

(500) Days of Stammer // Aidan Greene

The title is a pun on a romantic comedy film title, and it turns out this is because Aidan Greene loves rom-coms. So in his show, he presents a classic love story - the only difference being that this one is about a boy and his stammer. As Greene says, rom-coms are hopelessly formulaic: hero (usually but not necessarily a boy) meets the object of his affection (usually but not necessarily a girl), and the audience immediately knows they are in love. A lot of conflict happens, the hero loses the object of his affections, but they inevitably get back together after the hero makes a long and impassioned speech. You sense that last bit will be the hard part in this particular story - although (spoiler alert!) since his stammer is there on stage with him, we know the hero will get to be with the object of his affection at the end of this story as well.

Greene met his stammer aged four, and started speech therapy aged six. He says there are always a lot of speech therapists at his shows, and tonight is no exception - three in the front row. Stammering is a recognised disability in Ireland, where Greene is from, because of the profound impact it can have on people's lives. His stand-up set covers his overwhelming desire as a young man to fall in love and the many ways his stammer has got in the way.

The dramatic crisis comes when he begins to doubt that he is the hero of his own story. What if he's just somebody else's awkward and ill-fitting sidekick? He says that he tried to reject his stammer mentally at this point in his life, only to realise it was so much a part of his identity that it was impossible. In his head, he made a long and impassioned speech to persuade his stammer to come back to him, and in so doing, has come to love his stammer. Naturally this means he isn't 'cured' and never will be, but he stammers less now and finds it easier to acknowledge and even laugh about it. And his own ease with his stammer helps to relax the audience so that we can laugh along with him, too.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

(500) Days of Stammer - Aidan Greene

What Is Stammering? - Action for Stammering Children

What Is Speech and Language Therapy? - Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

So You Want to Write... A Romantic Comedy - TV Tropes

How My Stutter Improves My Dating Life - Washington Post

An Oscar-Winning Short Film About Stuttering and Love - The New Yorker

Sometimes I Adult // Fridge Magnet

voice

into

loop

pedal

1

2

3

4

these

lines

for

Alice

who

counts

in

fours

Sometimes I Adult is a solo show in four acts - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Recovery, Relapse - that sees Alice Sainsbury honestly and wittily divulge, tackle and stare down her ‘old man’ companion OCD. To help tell of her experiences, she arms herself with a loop pedal and a baritone ukulele with which she plays and sings songs from pop culture with re-written lyrics. The songs range from Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid to Stand By Me by Ben E King - an irreverent and joyous mix with a dual role of helping to protect the vulnerability within the work. 

More than episodic cabaret, there is a sense of Alice giving in to all the frustrations, powerlessness and fuckery of an incessantly checking brain that conjures images of destruction and hurt if lightening-quick instructions are not followed. For example, if Alice doesn’t balance a casual moment of goodbye with her mother as she runs an errand by waving, jumping, clearing her throat and saying, 'I love you’ four times, her mother’s car will catch fire and her skin will melt off. 

The capacity of a mentally distressed brain to conjure gruesome images resonates between many mental health issues. The show details their violent and graphic nature in a way that exposes the impact that this condition has on the performer and on the audiences. Audiences who will inevitably lie on a spectrum of being able to connect Alice’s experiences with their own or someone they know. 

Underlying the work are a several dichotomies that arise in OCD recovery; simultaneously being overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts but determinedly ‘staring that fucker down in the face’. The unpredictable medication side effects alongside the disorientating relapses. The knowledge of never being able to live without OCD interweaved with the hope of one day getting over it. 

All this looping, all this living, conjures another contradiction. Alice possesses a resilience from learning to manage her condition but alongside this, in moments when mental distress can strip the mind, this same resilience can feel like fuck all. 

a

bitter

sweet

strength

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:

Sometimes I Adult - Fridge Magnet

OCD UK

Living With OCD - Samantha Pena (TEDxYouth)

OCD Information and Support - Mind

Polyphony // Ola Aralepo

There can't be too many shows at the Fringe attempting to pioneer new forms of psychotherapy. A psychotherapist ('among other things'), Ola Aralepo claims his clients' personal narratives are becoming more humorous, even as stand-up comics are drawing more on their own mental health issues to make comedy. So he frames his show as an experiment in 'stand-up therapy'. He is at pains to point out that it is neither stand-up nor therapy; instead, he asks the audience to act as a 'compassionate community', a phrase often used in the context of end-of-life care but here meant to encourage empathy and care as Aralepo tells his story.

He shares events in his life that he believes are responsible for his own neuroses. He offers a Freudian definition of neurosis - patterns of thought or behaviour that everyone has and that we fall in to when emotionally stressed. Key to his experience seems to be Bowlby's attachment theory, which described the importance of early childhood in a person's subsequent mental health, in particular the first relationship a child forms - usually with its mother. Aralepo was born in the UK to Nigerian parents, who placed him with a white foster mother. When he was 6, he met his birth mother for the first time when she took him back to Nigeria. Then, as a young man, his father sent him back to the UK. These experiences led to ingrained self-doubt, a lack of belonging, and what Aralepo describes as voices - a polyphony of voices - undermining his self-confidence.

Attachment theory was further developed by Mary Ainsworth, looking at children's different responses to care-givers and strangers. In Aralepo's story, he is often surrounded by strangers, from his birth parents and the Nigerian classmates who called him a Britico, to his neighbours back in the UK whom he cannot socialise with. And yet here he is now, standing up and sharing his story with an audience of strangers. Is the aim to help us or himself? It is not entirely clear. The show culminates when the two sides of the audience are asked to sing two different phrases from Aralepo's neurotic voices at the same time. Our voices quietly commingle, ending an evening of gentle introspection.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Polyphony

Your Personality May Affect Your Vulnerability to Mental Health Problems - British Psychological Society Research Digest

Freud and Defense Mechanisms - Simply Psychology

Freud's Light on the Neurosis of the Mighty (1939) - Guardian 

Bowlby's Attachment Theory - Simply Psychology

Mary Ainsworth and Attachment Theory - Child Development Media

Compassionate Communities Launches Initiative in East London - NSUN Network for Mental Health

salt. // Selina Thompson

Watching, watching, watching as Selina Thompson roots herself and starts unfolding her insides. Her’s is a work of exhuming the dead. salt. traces their ghostly forms so that we might honour their meticulous, industrial decimation. In her hands, there are tools; a very big hammer, a pestle, a mic. She is pounding. Pounding salt and pounding her heart. These two masses linked; both formed over time and broken over time. 

The first time Selina used her passport was to undertake a task too great for her, too brutal to hold. But hold it her body does. She is holding the chain linking white colonial patriarchy, along to capitalism and down to her own terror on board a freight ship that is sailing the Atlantic Slave Trade route. Through all this, she pounds salt. The ocean, the bodies of slaves, the flinches of white liberal people confronted by racism, are all ‘swept up and shattered’ as hammer hits rock. And still Selina stands whole.

We are watching courage. The raw type. The courage that catches off guard. The courage that is not a choice but accompanies an imperative calling. A calling that draws Selina - like many who are part of the African diaspora - to find out and grieve both the documented presences and eroded absences of the slave trade. 

Selina tells the racist tale that a racist teacher told her grandmother. It is a story about how black people came to exist: There were two people. One day they were both soiled with dirt. One was hard working and went to wash away their stains in the sea. They became white. The other was lazy and only washed their palms and soles of their feet. They became black.

Of course, dirty stains are not on the bodies of black people but in the waters soiled by the dirt of white hands and minds. White slave traders stained the deceptively clear waters and yet, a black child hears her origin perversely twisted. History mishandles history. 

It is a history that although effortfully uncovered by many, can still be subjected to tidal denials that result in it feeling frustratingly ungraspable. In the UK today, there are only optional modules within the national curriculum where pupils from the african diaspora may learn of their traumas and their belonging. The ongoing impacts of slavery remain unfathomable, they are formless down to the depths of the ocean, right down to the watery, subatomic reckonings with grief.

Later, Selina speaks of something - will, hands, strength, current - bringing her out of this water and back into form. She finds language for the unspeakable. Through salty tears that prickle - having learnt as a teenager that it is not safe to cry about slavery in a majority white space - I see her. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

salt. - Selina Thompson

National Curriculum England - History Programmes of Study 

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (excerpt) by Saidiya Hartman - NPR

In The Wake: On Blackness and Being (excerpt) by Christina Sharpe - Duke Press

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge   

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Black Cultural Archives