House is a play about a reunion in a British Nigerian family. Two sisters and their mother gather to mark a birthday – but it quickly becomes apparent that problems from the past, including mental health issues, mean any celebrations are premature.
How do you write anxiety? How do you act it? Two questions that present wildly unsatisfactory answers. There are the obvious ways, the tics, the coiled up physical tensions, the wild, unkempt hair, the wildly roving eyes. There’s the breathy, machine guy delivery of dialogue, or the visible signs of ‘nervous breakdown’.
A black dog is perhaps a rather genteel metaphor for depression, particularly when compared to the flatulent walrus that Annie Siddons has chosen to represent the encroaching loneliness of her suburban dislocation. Loneliness is not the same as depression, as Siddons points out in the show, but the dog and walrus are wont to introduce each other when you’re vulnerable. They’re from the same stable and they go hand in hand in vast modern cities and their blurred edges. The trek from home to work, the length of the working day, the dislocation of communities from each other and the yawning gap between what you might have and want stretches us thin.
According to the Journal of Psychopharmacology there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK in 2013. Zoe Murtagh is one of those and with Sacre Blue , her first full length solo show, she shares her experience - of trying to make anxiety a friend, of trying to conquer it, of trying to acknowledge its presence.
Declaration draws on Sarah Emmott’s experiences and (late) diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Developed with medical professionals, ADHD and mental health support groups, the piece begins with a highly energetic and comedic tone. Emmott shares childhood stories of embracing her then-undiagnosed self-defined “weirdness” within a supportive family context.
If you're ever in Lausanne, be sure to visit the Collection de L'Art Brut, a wonderful gallery dedicated to outsider art. You can spend hours marvelling at the output of self-taught creators, many living at the margins of society and all indifferent to public acclaim. Oblivious to the market, they are people who make art out of necessity.