DEPRESSION

Awake // Miranda Colmans

Sleep: we all need it and most of us probably think we don’t get enough. But what is it like to get a bad night of sleep, day after day, week after week, month after month? Awake, by Miranda Colmans, explores this. Told through a series of characters who find themselves awake in the middle of the night and come together in an online chat room, Colmans highlights the difficulties experienced by people with chronic insomnia.

Around 6-10% of the adult population will meet the clinical criteria for insomnia disorder, which requires at least 3 nights a week of poor sleep, for at least 3 months, causing significant distress or impairment to daytime functioning. Colmans portrays not just the exhaustion that is experienced by successive nights of little sleep, but also the frustration and loneliness that people experience being awake while everyone else is asleep.  Starting off with the at times comical side of the often conflicting advice and strategies offered to get to sleep, like trying to relax for the third time that night. 

Colmans leads us down a path of the increasing frustration and loneliness her character’s experience to the onset of mental health problems. Insomnia is a recognised risk factor for the development of depression and commonly occurs alongside many mental health conditions.  Colmans’ portrayal of a single mum as she tries to cope with a new baby on little or no sleep, eloquently demonstrates how things can quickly unravel. The onset of insomnia is not uncommon during or shortly after pregnancy and can be linked with the development or exacerbation of post-partum depression. This is a very vulnerable time for many new mothers and fathers, especially for those with little or no support. Sleep is often low on the list of priorities but more needs to be done to ensure that we give sleep the time it deserves. Work like Colmans’ bring sleep to centre stage, recognising the importance of sleep in all of our lives. 

- Kate Porcheret

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Awake - Miranda Colmans

Scientific Review of Chronic Insomnia - The Lancet

Why Do We Sleep? - Russell Foster (TED Talk)

Having Trouble With Your Sleep? - Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

HOW IS UNCLE JOHN? / Creative Garage

HOW IS UNCLE JOHN? / Creative Garage

Abuse often comes shrouded in code. It comes in signs. Physical marks and distress, eyes that won’t meet yours, garbled speech, a sort of radical shrinking. There’s the less obvious, mental iterations. Rapid and sudden introversion, anxiety, depression: another sort of radical diminishing.

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL / Christian Talbot

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL / Christian Talbot

It’s one the enduring footballing cliches, parked somewhere alongside “a game of two halves” and the absurdist non-sequitur “sick as a parrot”: “it’s the hope that kills you”. Like all good cliches it invites you to consider an alternative, a refashioning, a making new. John Patrick Higgins’ Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful is an attempt at just such a refashioning. 

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

A council worker watches on as a young man takes a running jump to throw himself off a bridge. He pulls back at the last moment. The young man, elegantly dressed, starts to converse with the dry witted street sweeper and the tone shifts. Things are revealed to be more complicated, as things often are. 

SHARP EDGES / Amelia Sweetland

SHARP EDGES / Amelia Sweetland

Sharp Edges (written and performed by Amelia Sweetland) is an intense exploration of female mental illness. Filmed sequences and voiceover showing Sophie at home are used to break up a series of sessions Sophie has with the therapist her GP sends her to when she complains of insomnia. Slowly, Sophie's past and Sophie herself start to unravel.

THE HOURS BEFORE WE WAKE / Tremolo Theatre

THE HOURS BEFORE WE WAKE / Tremolo Theatre

Judging by the extreme rarity of mobile phones, tablets, or even laptops on stage, the theatre world has barely caught up with the technological realities of the present, let alone the future. Tremolo Theatre’s The Hours Before I Wake doesn’t step too dramatically beyond the realities of the world we live in. But its commitment to representing a social media-rich, technologically-dense world makes it feel unusual - a sci-fi satire that’s close to home.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING / Paines Plough

EVERY BRILLIANT THING / Paines Plough

Every Brilliant Thing is a list made by a child attempting to make their mother feel better after an attempted suicide. As the child grows, so does the list. Jonny Donahoe performs Duncan Macmillan’s monologue which engages with the audience in hopes of spreading understanding about depression.

THE INTERFERENCE / Pepperdine University (USA)

THE INTERFERENCE / Pepperdine University (USA)

A series of high-profile cases has drawn attention to the idea that a ‘rape culture’ exists in American colleges - a micro-climate where sexually predatory behaviour is both normalised, and enabled by social codes around masculinity. And one, too, where victims are either disbelieved or blamed. Cork-based playwright Lynda Radley’s latest play is a 360 degree view of a female student Karen’s experience of reporting a campus rape, and seeking justice. But unlike most reporting on campus rapes, it takes her perspective, showing the serious mental health impact of her experiences while her college football star rapist Smith emerges unscathed.

I WAS A TEENAGE CHRISTIAN / Katy Brand

I WAS A TEENAGE CHRISTIAN / Katy Brand

Comedian Katy Brand is pretty clear why she left the Buckinghamshire church she so strongly identified with from the age of 13. In I Was A Teenage Christian, she talks about her gradual disillusionment with leaders who banned Harry Potter, and who flatly disapproved of her choosing to take a degree in theology.

ALTERED MINDS, ALTERED REALITIES / Augustus Stephens

ALTERED MINDS, ALTERED REALITIES / Augustus Stephens

Altered Minds, Altered Realities is a one-act, one-man play in which the playwright and actor, Augustus Stephens, depicts six characters in turn in a series of monologues, poems and songs. Each named character is living with a different serious mental illness.

HERO WORSHIP / Sonic Boom

HERO WORSHIP / Sonic Boom

Hero Worship deals with comics as a coping mechanism and is the latest in a series of monologues by admired writer-performer Kenny Boyle. Cyberpunk clothing and a utility belt are instantly familiar from the comic Kick Ass as is our hero, a 21st century everyman working in a SUPERmarket. His main enemies are probably familiar to all of us and go by the names of anxiety, depression and uncertainty.  Using imagination to escape the mundane is a central theme in hero Worship but it’s stressed, that the complexities of real life are what make us who we are and build our personalities.

HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA / Annie Siddons

HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA / Annie Siddons

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. 

STORIES TO TELL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT / Francesca Millican-Slater

STORIES TO TELL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT / Francesca Millican-Slater

Insomnia is a common problem – the NHS estimates that one in three people in the UK experience it regularly – and on the surface Millican-Slater's stories evoke the banal: one features a couple in a supermarket; another, a couple disturbed by the insistent loud music played by their neighbours after hours.

ANYTHING THAT GIVES OFF LIGHT / The TEAM & National Theatre of Scotland

ANYTHING THAT GIVES OFF LIGHT / The TEAM & National Theatre of Scotland

Two Scotsmen and an American woman walk into a bar and... The set-up for fringe stalwarts the TEAM's collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland might sound jokey, but that's not how the action or fiercely political argument plays out. All three characters are experiencing an identity crisis of sorts, and seek brittle refuge in each other as they attempt to navigate or make sense of their disquietude.

THE MAGNETIC DIARIES / Reaction Theatre Makers

THE MAGNETIC DIARIES / Reaction Theatre Makers

A poetry play based on Madame Bovary, The Magnetic Diaries describes a contemporary battle with severe depression, and the course of brain-altering repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) therapy that our protagonist, Emma, embarks on.