PSYCHOLOGY

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

SHIMMER SHATTER / Sofie Hagen

SHIMMER SHATTER / Sofie Hagen

Sofie Hagen’s show, Shimmer Shatter, busts a few myths about introversion. It clearly indicates that being an introvert does not mean you are cold and closed-off. It doesn’t mean you won’t stand up and be very funny in front of an audience. And it doesn’t mean you are unable to tell people about the strangest and most personal aspects of your life, like the time you married a plank of wood and invited your school friends around as witnesses.   

EDINBURGH IN THE SHADOWS / Beattie & Scratchmann

EDINBURGH IN THE SHADOWS / Beattie & Scratchmann

‘Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again.’ This is author Neil Gaiman’s explanation of why we love a scary story, and it well described the experience of joining Alex Beattie and Max Scratchmann for their bloodcurdling show Edinburgh in the Shadows

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.

THE CONVOLUTION OF PIP AND TWIG / PEP

THE CONVOLUTION OF PIP AND TWIG / PEP

Cryptophasia is the phenomenon of a language developed by twins. At the start of The Convolution of Pip and Twig the consistent, unintelligible muttering suggest these two are among the 50% of twins who have created their personal idioglossia; an idiosyncratic and essentially private language invented and spoken by only a couple of people.

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

The sexism that Mary Shelley experienced while trying to write literary classic Frankenstein is unfortunately still an immediate and modern concern as literary award shortlists continue to be male dominated. Making Monsters does its best to explore the feminist context surrounding the creation of this psychologically gripping, and essentially modern landmark text.

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

The raw emotions on display in Blush are the primal responses to those whose lives have been detrimentally affected by pornography. Five candid stories address porn addiction, revenge porn, seeking approval and validation through porn, and as the characters and voices change, it’s apparent they are all defined by exposure to porn.

DOUBTING THOMAS / Grassmarket Projects

DOUBTING THOMAS / Grassmarket Projects

Doubting Thomas is ostensibly about Glasgow's criminal underworld, but it's also about the consequences of childhood trauma and neglect, and it's about rehabilitation. Written and performed by Thomas McCrudden with support from the cast, it is the true story of his violent past, detailing his time both in and out of prison.

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.

DON'T PANIC! IT'S CHALLENGE ANNEKA / on the button

DON'T PANIC! IT'S CHALLENGE ANNEKA / on the button

A solo comedy show in which writer and performer Sophie Winter plays all the parts, including her boss, her mum, her best friend and 90s TV star Anneka Rice, Don't Panic! It's Challenge Anneka is all about anxiety. It uses humour and silliness to demystify and start conversations about a serious subject.

FINGERING A MINOR ON THE PIANO / Adam Kay

FINGERING A MINOR ON THE PIANO / Adam Kay

Adam Kay left a career as an obstetrician six years ago. In Fingering A Minor on the Piano, he shares observations about the realities of working as a doctor, creating a picture of the conditions and pressures that sit behind strike action.

BUBBLE REVOLUTION / Polish Theatre Ireland

BUBBLE REVOLUTION / Polish Theatre Ireland

Bubble Revolution describes itself as 'a one-woman revolutionary fairy tale about growing up during and after the fall of communism in Poland'. The bubble of the title refers to bubblegum, something that was once very hard to get hold of and treasured as a result.

PERHAPS HOPE / Company Here and Now

PERHAPS HOPE / Company Here and Now

Circus may not seem like the most obvious medium through which to explore climate change, but watching Perhaps Hope it starts to make a certain kind of sense. What other art form involves so much risk? Where else do you see humans courting danger, even death, with such abandon?

THE ROAD TO HUNTSVILLE / Stephanie Ridings

THE ROAD TO HUNTSVILLE / Stephanie Ridings

he Road to Huntsville is a performance lecture that starts off asking why women fall in love with men on death row, and ends up questioning how state execution is ever allowed to happen. Written and presented by Stephanie Ridings, it's the culmination of a research project of hers that began objectively enough but became profoundly personal.

EQUATIONS FOR A MOVING BODY / Hannah Nicklin

EQUATIONS FOR A MOVING BODY / Hannah Nicklin

2.4 mile swim. 112 mile cycle. 26.2 mile run. The athletes look more like spiders as we are shown a video of Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham crawling across the finishing line of the 1997 Ironman Triathlon. The women push themselves past exhaustion to the point where their legs will no longer carry them. Their mental strength and determination lumps them over the line where they collapse, limbs twisted.