Spiders by Night is a double bill of short monologues developed, produced and presented by two Bristol-based theatre companies which describe their work as a collaboration between community members with mental health difficulties or addiction issues and professional artists.
Both monologues are minimally staged and invite audiences to focus their attention on the writing and delivery of both pieces. 'Waiting for ISON', the first monologue begins with Simon looking into space through a telescope in his attic and frantically checking his phone. Simon is an astronomy enthusiast following the comet’s journey across space.
For a while, the monologue merely hints at Simon’s obsessive relationship to his passion, and the isolation that it led to. During that time, we could easily be led to believe that we are about to be told a science fiction story, or one of adventure - and in any case, not an exploration of the character’s mental health. While we understand that Simon may not spend much time outside of his attic or interacting with others, one (human) friend regularly visits him.
When Simon begins to develop a friendship with a family of spiders living in his attic, visits from his (human) friend become less and less frequent, until they stop entirely after Simon calls the police to report the alleged murder of one of his spider friends. This poetic monologue subtly highlights that perhaps to care best for those with mental illnesses, approaches which include supporting people in their immediate environment might be more effective. The Open Dialogue Approach for example is a system of care developed in Western Lapland which works with people traditionally thought of as ‘the patient’ as well as their families or other networks.
The second part of the double bill, 'Insider', is told by a patient-cum-spider herself as she moves around and explores a secure psychiatric ward. With two crutches as additional spider legs, the performer’s physicality compliments the text’s description of the effects of psychiatric care on the patient’s body. Both the patient herself, and an outsider observer, the spider wants to escape and is not able to. While the reason for the character’s placement in a psychiatric ward isn’t made clear, the piece could be read as an exploration of dissociative disorder, or as a comment on the lack of agency the character has over her own care. (LB)
The run of Spiders By Night: A Double Bill of Exciting New Monologues at theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall has now finished. WA, LA, WC - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spiders-by-night-a-double-bill-of-exciting-new-monologues
Coffee House community theatre company website: http://www.coffeehousetheatrecompany.com/#!about/cfp1
Stepping Out Theatre website: http://www.steppingouttheatre.co.uk/
Further information on the Open Dialogue approach system of care developed in Western Lapland: http://opendialogueapproach.co.uk/
Information about dissociative disorders from the NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dissociative-disorders/Pages/Introduction.aspx