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.

Emma's voice is vivid and fierce, her experienced world intensely beautiful and intensely painful. She loves her husband and her daughter deeply, but her depression stops her sleeping, pushes her to take sexual risks, and to court death. She decides to seek treatment at a private clinic, temporarily living away from home in a rented flat in London.

The rTMS that Emma tries is a type of electroconvulsive therapy. It's often only considered when psychological therapies and antidepressant medications have failed to have an impact. It usually involves a series of daily, 30 minute sessions, typically over the course of two to six weeks.

NICE explain the procedure: 'A purpose‑made electromagnetic coil is held against the scalp with the intention of inducing electric currents in the cerebral cortex... Repetitive pulses of electromagnetic energy are delivered at various frequencies or stimulus intensities... Stimulation can either be delivered unilaterally, over the left or right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or bilaterally over both cortices.'

The rTMS appears to work for Emma, on paper at least, and she eventually returns home. But she misses her follow up appointments, leaves her bills unpaid, and stops returning her doctor's calls. Emma begins to spiral downwards, and death once again seems like the only viable option to make the pain stop. Through its poetic script, The Magnetic Diaries shows how wondrous and creative life can be despite living with depression, but also how exhausting and relentless. (HB)

The Magnetic Diaries is on at ZOO (venue 124) at 13:00 until 27 August (not 21st). Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets -

Need help? You can call the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 or find them online at:

'How can I cope right now?':

'Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression':

'Clinical Depression: The Silent, Soul-Crushing Killer That Claims Lives Daily':