THERAPY

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

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

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.

(I COULD GO ON SINGING) SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW / FK Alexander

(I COULD GO ON SINGING) SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW / FK Alexander

The volume of this work is at the level of trembling clothes. An affective noise that moves bodies and governs the internal rhythms of an audience to match its ritual of dialogue balladry. The singer is standing in a washed-out strobe aurora with a mic lead coiled in her punk rock grip, hand-in-hand with one from the crowd. The crowd let it lull them into a meditative state.

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.

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.