EdFringe 2017

Fix // Worklight Theatre

In a blend of text and songs we follow three characters, each made up of a collage of the various people Worklight spoke to during a two year research period. The broad topic of addiction is filtered through the lens of behavioural addictions and these determined performers navigate communicating the science of how dependencies manifest in the brain, alongside their intimate character portraits.

The trio preface their findings with the message that the numerous range of causes, impacts and treatment for addictions are ‘up for debate’ and what unfolds before the audience seems to be about humans chasing connections - neurological, emotional and physical. These connections are inherent in the process of social bonding and evolution and yet, frequently disrupted by the loneliness of addiction. Or rather, the loneliness of disconnecting from family, friends and/or the gradual but entrenched process of political and economical disenfranchisement, which then fuels addiction.  

Digestible science-y bits about the habit forming centres of the brain, which addiction alters, travel the audience into the impossibly complex matrix of neurones that explode our soft tissue into a mess of cravings. These longings become more concrete with each cycle of repeated fixes and pauses between fixes. 

The show grazes the surface yet provides a compassionate glimpse into the scope and consequences of addiction. Near the end, there are undertones of devastation in an assertion that ‘you can’t cure this…no one is ever completely fixed’. What springs to mind is how long term care, compassion and the continual re-understandings needed to treat addictions, each sit uncomfortably within impatient, globalised capitalism. Short sharp treatment courses, 6 NHS therapy sessions, TV talk show hosts-cum-doctors

So, how do we make more time? How do we replenish healthcare resources? How do we nurture rather than rupture emotional connections in order to counter getting a fix, a release, an escape from destructive patterning and habits? 

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Fix - Worklight Theatre

Behavioural Addiction vs Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views - US National Library of Medicine

Action on Addiction

Codependency Help & Treatment - Rehab & Recovery

Addiction and Recovery

Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman // Carnesky Productions

On Monday 21 August, the new moon passed in front of the sun and a partial solar eclipse was visible from Edinburgh before the sun set (clouds aside). Ironically, perhaps, for a show about menstrual cycles and lunar rituals, Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman had a day off on Monday. But perhaps the power of the new moon temporarily conquering the sun would make it too dangerous to perform, anyway.

In this cabaret show performed by six "menstruants", sword swallower MisSa Blue understands the risks. She discovered the hard way that it is not only the womb and vagina that change in the menstrual cycle - there are oestrogen receptors all over the body, so most organs are affected by the fluctuating hormone levels in some way. On one recent occasion, MisSa says her throat had swollen just enough to not leave room for her usual blade, and her oesophagus was punctured during her act. So now she swallows different length swords depending on the time of the month. The 28 swords are lined up at the back of the stage throughout the show, their handles elegantly showing the phases of the moon.

Dr Marisa Carnesky studies the significance and symbolism of menstruation in different times, traditions and cultures, often involving magic, mysticism, and rites of renewal and fertility. Today, menstruation is both ordinary (a large proportion of the world's population experiences it) and taboo. In some cultures, menstruating women are not allowed to be in the same space or use the same things as everybody else, often putting them in unsafe and unhealthy situations. Carnesky and her fellow show-women have been engaged in experiments to reclaim menstruation as a vital female experience, to be celebrated with new rituals of their own devising.

In particular, Carnesky says she wants all women to synchronise their menstrual cycles, to harness the power of being in sync with the planet and each other to start a more political revolution. While scientific research suggests it is mostly by chance that women's menstrual cycles appear to fall in sync when they spend time together, this may be because scientists haven't studied women who are consciously trying to synchronise, either with each other or the moon.

What science is coming to understand, however, is that menstrual blood is truly powerful stuff. Not only would it be much more efficient to collect menstrual blood for certain medical tests, rather than drawing blood from blood vessels, but menstrual blood is also rich in stem cells that could potentially be used for research or even as the basis for new medical treatments. Maybe that will be a new kind of menstrual magic to harness in the future.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman - Carnesky Productions

Seeing the Eclipse on Monday - Edinburgh Evening News

Physiological Changes Associated with the Menstrual Cycle (Farage et al, 2009) Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 64(1) 

Blood Speaks - Mosaic

Do Women's Periods Really Synch? - The Conversation

Characterisation of Menstrual Stem Cells (Alcayaga-Miranda et al 2015) - Stem Cell Research and Therapy

Tests Using Menstrual Blood Could Help Detect Diseases in Women - Healthline

Show Up // Peter Michael Marino

Woody Allen’s statement, made years ago, that ‘80 percent of life is showing up’, is the theory behind Peter Michael Marino’s show, Show Up. The production is more a happening for the audience than something to sit and watch. As a group, they are making something happen just because they are there. Marino, too, believes that showing up is most of the battle, not just for entertainment but for living a good life. ‘Doing is so much easier than thinking about it’, he says.

Research has shown that he has a good point. He provides a wild, unpredictable ride for his audience commenting on his own social anxiety and performance challenges. When the improvisation begins to happen, one can see the visible changes in audience attitude. They become absorbed in creating a brand new original show based on their own random contributions before the actual story begins. When each person becomes involved in thinking of incidents from their childhood, about addiction or their love life, they are focusing on sharing with others rather than whatever personal problems they might have. Any anxiety or shyness evaporates because everyone is involved together in a group endeavour. In fact, any situation where a group works together builds confidence in the individual members. By including his audience in his production, Marino creates an unforgettable experience and turns audiences into participants and co-creators.

Marino tells his audience that creating these stories from incidents they provide lifts him from depression - the unsaid implication is that it does for everyone involved in the show as well. Psychologists tell us he is right. When you’re depressed, the tendency is to withdraw and isolate. Even reaching out to close family members and friends can be tough. Compound that with the feelings of shame and the guilt you may feel at neglecting your relationships. Unless you reach out to others, you’re in a downward spiral you’re unable to stop. This dark cloud need not be permanent. The good news is that social support is absolutely essential to depression recovery. Staying connected to other people and the outside world will make a world of difference in your mood and outlook. In showing up to Show Up, people find themselves totally involved with a group of strangers in an enjoyable project.  They love the show but what they do not realize is that they also ARE the show.

- Lynn Ruth Miller


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Show Up - Peter Michael Marino

Woody Allen on Showing Up

Social Anxiety - MOODJUICE Self-Help Guide (NHS)

Audience Participation - Cas McCullough

Reaching Out to Cure Depression - helpguide.org

Together Alone // Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

The space is bare - white dance floor laid down in a black box theatre. Three scribbles of white florescent lights are suspended near the back. Within this abstracted space, the nude figures of choreographers and performers Zoltan Vakulya and Chen-Wei Lee resist static objecthood and make their first contact. This sparse arena hosts two people musing upon one another, gently meeting through touch. 

Our non-verbal communication/haptic communication develops so that we may know ourselves, others and the world through touch. Haptic knowledges are a key source material for dancing and coming to understand the world non-verbally in this way is shared across many species. It can be argued that such touch-led perceptions hold a lower status that our rational, verbal modes of communicating, relating and coming to know our environments. In contrast, this dance of swings, curves and counterbalances prioritises sensorial knowledge. As Vakulya and Lee’s bodies ride the momentum that their bodies conjure up from the ground; catching, sharing and releasing gravity between them, constant touch becomes a driving force. 

In their deft and assured movement, the sculptures ‘We Two’ and ‘Embrace’ by Gaylord Ho come to mind. In these works, contact points between two figures are foregrounded over the rest of the forms. Sometimes parts of the body are absent, further highlighting the sites of connection. There is a similar experience watching Together Alone - flickerings of flesh meeting are highlighted as bodies organise and re-organise themselves around points of contact, orbiting each other's centres. 

A question about pleasure hangs in the air. So too do associations with touch that can heal, support, communicate, trigger sensations of violence, of love and of care. 

A memory comes to me of Nancy Stark-Smith dancing in Fall After Newton, specifically, the lines her body swings through space.

At one point, Vakulya and Lee’s shadows are cast on the floor next to them. These shadows make the contact between their iliac crests blend into one another. The shadows are more porous than their bodies are and my question about pleasure begins to be answered. I think about sweat, temperature, the sensation of how it must feel to be so close to another and swing arms while exhaling warmth into the face of the person opposite you. I think of the places bodies fit together and how this interlocking can fuel movement. Eye to chin, armpit to kneecap, nape to forearm; each link propelling the search for the next. 

Charleston-like steps appear and bodies reveal their buoyancy, laughing and shimmering with abandon. In the closing parts, everything slows. The figures knot and unknot. They return to sculptural forms but their combination is now twin-like, pod-like and into an amorphous biped creature. 

Vakulya and Lee continue, sensitively indulging in their articulations with soft gazes, until they finish, spinning into black.

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Taiwan Season: Together Alone

Meet the Artists: Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

Fall After Newton Clip (1987)

Embrace - Gaylord Ho

We Two - Gaylord Ho

The Power of Touch - Psychology Today

Haptic Communication - Changing Minds

Haptic Perception - WiseGeek

Keeping My Kidneys // Mindy Raf

Shows at the Fringe are often ABOUT a singular thing: there’s a show about grief, a show about virginity, a show about anxiety, a show about coming out. Perhaps it is a marketing or PR strategy which makes the show ABOUT a singular thing, as its makes it easier to digest and to sell tickets, or it reflects the kernel of an idea which started an artist’s journey on a particular work. If Mindy Raf used the death of her mother as a starting point for her storytelling/stand up set Keeping My Kidneys, her detours, her ramblings, her journeys down the rabbit hole demonstrate that this is anything but just a show about a singular thing.  Instead, Raf makes a bold case for understanding how we are always all of our identities, and how these identities intersect, inform, challenge and support each other in exciting ways.

Along Raf’s journey through self-discovery and self-love are pointed and important revelations about the challenging and absurd realities of the American healthcare system (and its inability to deal with multiple health needs in a holistic way), midwestern Jewishness and family, and marginalized sexual identities (with her reflections on polyamory and pansexuality). As the fight for recognition and equality for LGBTQI+ people internationally and in the UK continues, Raf highlights the continued discomfort for those who fall (or stay) out of the mainstream – with playful conversations about biphobia and normative monogamy which remind us of how far we have to go in terms of true self-determination and pride. Raf challenges the idea that when we are dealing with one issue, or fighting one fight, we are not still engaged in a multitude of questions, oppressions, desires and conflicts. This confluence of influence is what makes Keeping My Kidneys unique in its storytelling: Raf is completely resistant to this being a show ABOUT one thing. Take it all, or leave it all, excitingly Raf has faith in her audience (and perhaps the world in 2017) that they can handle the complex nature of reality. 

- Brian Lobel


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Keeping My Kidneys - Mindy Raf

Polyamory’s Cultural Moment - NPR 

Ongoing Healthcare Debate and the Anxiety It Causes - New York Times

Cannabis Lube

Deathbed Promises on Reddit

Lena Waithe on Master of None and Coming Out Over Time - Vulture

Descent // A Moment White Productions

In Ancient Greece, tragedy was when a character fell to an inevitable fate, usually the consequence of some small mistake in their past. Attempts to escape or thwart this fate only locked them in more tightly. By this definition, Descent is a true tragedy, except that the past mistake was not the central character's but perhaps a small, undetectable error in his genetic code that made him susceptible to dementia.

For Rob, it starts with the loss of his pen, hinting innocuously at memory problems but actually foreshadowing the fundamental loss of identity that dementia will bring. The turning point is when he loses his temper with his daughter over a trivial board game. He accuses her of cheating, calls her a bitch. Research shows we perceive that someone with dementia has changed not when they lose their memories, but when their moral compass goes haywire. 'That's not him', Rob's daughter tells us.

Rob feels himself 'metamorphosing', referring explicitly to Kafka's novella. There is now a hard shell that stops him caring so much about other people's feelings. But it is not only Rob who is in descent. His wife, Cathy, is undergoing her own transformation as she takes on the responsibility of caring for her husband even as he starts caring less for her. The actors playing the couple in this production make their metamorphoses stark, seeming to age years under the stage lights even as the lights in both their eyes go dim.

Rob experiences paranoia - he suspects everyone of moving or even hiding his pen - and is at times physically aggressive towards Cathy. These are common, if less well-known symptoms of dementia. There are hints, too, at the incontinence and loss of physical control that follows. Rob and Cathy are still in their 50s - the prime of life. They were not expecting to have to consider carers and care homes. About 4% of people with dementia are under 65, and it can bring different challenges to living with dementia in later life. It can be harder to recognise and diagnose, and can mean more impact on younger families. Cathy starts grieving Rob before he dies. He has already gone, and the rest is inevitable.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis:


Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease - Alzheimer's Research UK

Symptoms - Alzheimer's Society

Carers: Looking After Yourself - Alzheimer's Society 

Neurodegeneration and IdentityPsychological Science (2015) 

The Inevitability of Tragedy - Edge Induced Cohesion (2013) 

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

(500) Days of Stammer // Aidan Greene

The title is a pun on a romantic comedy film title, and it turns out this is because Aidan Greene loves rom-coms. So in his show, he presents a classic love story - the only difference being that this one is about a boy and his stammer. As Greene says, rom-coms are hopelessly formulaic: hero (usually but not necessarily a boy) meets the object of his affection (usually but not necessarily a girl), and the audience immediately knows they are in love. A lot of conflict happens, the hero loses the object of his affections, but they inevitably get back together after the hero makes a long and impassioned speech. You sense that last bit will be the hard part in this particular story - although (spoiler alert!) since his stammer is there on stage with him, we know the hero will get to be with the object of his affection at the end of this story as well.

Greene met his stammer aged four, and started speech therapy aged six. He says there are always a lot of speech therapists at his shows, and tonight is no exception - three in the front row. Stammering is a recognised disability in Ireland, where Greene is from, because of the profound impact it can have on people's lives. His stand-up set covers his overwhelming desire as a young man to fall in love and the many ways his stammer has got in the way.

The dramatic crisis comes when he begins to doubt that he is the hero of his own story. What if he's just somebody else's awkward and ill-fitting sidekick? He says that he tried to reject his stammer mentally at this point in his life, only to realise it was so much a part of his identity that it was impossible. In his head, he made a long and impassioned speech to persuade his stammer to come back to him, and in so doing, has come to love his stammer. Naturally this means he isn't 'cured' and never will be, but he stammers less now and finds it easier to acknowledge and even laugh about it. And his own ease with his stammer helps to relax the audience so that we can laugh along with him, too.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

(500) Days of Stammer - Aidan Greene

What Is Stammering? - Action for Stammering Children

What Is Speech and Language Therapy? - Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

So You Want to Write... A Romantic Comedy - TV Tropes

How My Stutter Improves My Dating Life - Washington Post

An Oscar-Winning Short Film About Stuttering and Love - The New Yorker

Sometimes I Adult // Fridge Magnet

















Sometimes I Adult is a solo show in four acts - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Recovery, Relapse - that sees Alice Sainsbury honestly and wittily divulge, tackle and stare down her ‘old man’ companion OCD. To help tell of her experiences, she arms herself with a loop pedal and a baritone ukulele with which she plays and sings songs from pop culture with re-written lyrics. The songs range from Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid to Stand By Me by Ben E King - an irreverent and joyous mix with a dual role of helping to protect the vulnerability within the work. 

More than episodic cabaret, there is a sense of Alice giving in to all the frustrations, powerlessness and fuckery of an incessantly checking brain that conjures images of destruction and hurt if lightening-quick instructions are not followed. For example, if Alice doesn’t balance a casual moment of goodbye with her mother as she runs an errand by waving, jumping, clearing her throat and saying, 'I love you’ four times, her mother’s car will catch fire and her skin will melt off. 

The capacity of a mentally distressed brain to conjure gruesome images resonates between many mental health issues. The show details their violent and graphic nature in a way that exposes the impact that this condition has on the performer and on the audiences. Audiences who will inevitably lie on a spectrum of being able to connect Alice’s experiences with their own or someone they know. 

Underlying the work are a several dichotomies that arise in OCD recovery; simultaneously being overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts but determinedly ‘staring that fucker down in the face’. The unpredictable medication side effects alongside the disorientating relapses. The knowledge of never being able to live without OCD interweaved with the hope of one day getting over it. 

All this looping, all this living, conjures another contradiction. Alice possesses a resilience from learning to manage her condition but alongside this, in moments when mental distress can strip the mind, this same resilience can feel like fuck all. 





- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:

Sometimes I Adult - Fridge Magnet


Living With OCD - Samantha Pena (TEDxYouth)

OCD Information and Support - Mind

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:


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

salt. // Selina Thompson

Watching, watching, watching as Selina Thompson roots herself and starts unfolding her insides. Her’s is a work of exhuming the dead. salt. traces their ghostly forms so that we might honour their meticulous, industrial decimation. In her hands, there are tools; a very big hammer, a pestle, a mic. She is pounding. Pounding salt and pounding her heart. These two masses linked; both formed over time and broken over time. 

The first time Selina used her passport was to undertake a task too great for her, too brutal to hold. But hold it her body does. She is holding the chain linking white colonial patriarchy, along to capitalism and down to her own terror on board a freight ship that is sailing the Atlantic Slave Trade route. Through all this, she pounds salt. The ocean, the bodies of slaves, the flinches of white liberal people confronted by racism, are all ‘swept up and shattered’ as hammer hits rock. And still Selina stands whole.

We are watching courage. The raw type. The courage that catches off guard. The courage that is not a choice but accompanies an imperative calling. A calling that draws Selina - like many who are part of the African diaspora - to find out and grieve both the documented presences and eroded absences of the slave trade. 

Selina tells the racist tale that a racist teacher told her grandmother. It is a story about how black people came to exist: There were two people. One day they were both soiled with dirt. One was hard working and went to wash away their stains in the sea. They became white. The other was lazy and only washed their palms and soles of their feet. They became black.

Of course, dirty stains are not on the bodies of black people but in the waters soiled by the dirt of white hands and minds. White slave traders stained the deceptively clear waters and yet, a black child hears her origin perversely twisted. History mishandles history. 

It is a history that although effortfully uncovered by many, can still be subjected to tidal denials that result in it feeling frustratingly ungraspable. In the UK today, there are only optional modules within the national curriculum where pupils from the african diaspora may learn of their traumas and their belonging. The ongoing impacts of slavery remain unfathomable, they are formless down to the depths of the ocean, right down to the watery, subatomic reckonings with grief.

Later, Selina speaks of something - will, hands, strength, current - bringing her out of this water and back into form. She finds language for the unspeakable. Through salty tears that prickle - having learnt as a teenager that it is not safe to cry about slavery in a majority white space - I see her. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

salt. - Selina Thompson

National Curriculum England - History Programmes of Study 

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (excerpt) by Saidiya Hartman - NPR

In The Wake: On Blackness and Being (excerpt) by Christina Sharpe - Duke Press

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge   

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Black Cultural Archives

Desperation Bingo // Creative Electric

It is brave to incorporate a game of chance like bingo within a show that has a serious message, but Creative Electric manage it well with a pair of camp, confident hosts. Eyes down, dabbers ready... The audience is playing, but there are also three 'contestants' who respond to each called number with a fact about themselves based on that number. It might be something that happened when they were that age, or something they bought for that amount of money, or the number of years they've been taking medication to treat their anxiety.

The audience can win prizes in the first two rounds, even as the information we learn about the contestants' characters gets more personal and more desperate. By the third round, it is clear that the point is to rage at the deadly impacts of the current government's austerity policies in the UK. A case here in Leith is mentioned, in which a local man died by suicide and the coroner said the trigger had been the decision of the Department of Work and Pensions to rule him fit for work, in spite of contrary assessments by his GP and psychologists.

Unlike Kaleider's Money, seen in Edinburgh in 2015, which asked the audience to agree on how to spend a pot of money, Desperation Bingo culminates in the opportunity for one audience member to win £82. The prize is the weekly benefits of the final contestant's mother, which she is at risk of losing now that her Disability Living Allowance has been replaced by an opportunity to apply for Personal Independence Payments. Last night the audience member declined, and it would be interesting to know whether anyone has ever, with an actor shouting 'You are Iain Duncan Smith; you are the Tory government', dared take the money.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis: 

Desperation Bingo - Creative Electric

The Money | Kaleider - British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2015

What Is Austerity? - The Economist 

GP's Report Was Ignored During Assessment - Pulse

Life and Death Under Austerity - Mosaic

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

The Samaritans - How to Get Help

Rap Guide to Consciousness // Baba Brinkman

Have you ever wondered if a zombie is conscious? Do you love hip-hop? This a show that addresses the former through the latter. Baba Brinkman tackles ‘the hard problem’: how are we conscious? Consciousness is the awareness of your own existence, sensations and thoughts. So how then do the 90 billion or so neurons in our brain create a conscious being? This is a question science does not yet have the answer to, but though a series of ‘peer-reviewed raps’ Brinkman explores what we know about the brain and what this can tell us about the nature of consciousness.

Brinkman takes us from Bayesian probability theory to panpsychism (the theory that the universe is conscious). He breaks down these complex ideas using his son, acid trips and Google’s DeepDream generator, to create a funny and enjoyable hour long discussion about some hardcore scientific ideas. This makes Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Consciousness a fantastic example of how to communicate complex scientific ideas. Every day we are bombarded with news stories about the latest scientific discoveries and asked to change our behaviours and lifestyles, and yet more often than not we are expected to just believe in the experts as the science is too hard to explain. With global phenomenon like climate change and obesity having the ability to affect us all, it has never been more relevant that we demystify science and remove the lab coat and safety goggles. 

- Kate Porcheret


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Baba Brinkman - Rap Guide to Consciousness

Consciousness Round-Up - New Scientist

Your Brain Hallucinates Your Conscious Reality - Anil Seth (TED)

Rapping Evolution: An Interview with Baba Brinkman - Committee for Sceptical Inquiry

DeepDream Generator

Being Hueman Being // Luke Nowell

Friedrich Schiller wrote that we play only when we are fully human, and are fully human only when we play. In Being Hueman Being, Luke Nowell creates a playful world in which everyone is invited to participate, play and perhaps achieve a state of full humanity.

This world is grounded in his art as a clown - his demeanour, his attitude, even his posture is playful as he has fun with art and the cycle of life. No big deal, he's just being human. Audience participation is crucial. You might be recruited to play a sperm racing to an egg, or to be a flower for a bee to pollinate, or to be a human with a swatter, or to be a bee that forms part of a swarm to sting that human to death. There is so much to do, everyone has a chance to play.

In recent years, there have been many stories about playful workspaces - office ball pits, laughter clubs, colouring books for grown-ups. This trend is not an attempt to revert to childhood, but an attempt to recover an essential part of adulthood. Play allows for creativity: it is necessarily voluntary, enjoyable and flexible. When you join in a game, or run with someone else's idea, you inevitably create something new. This is the playfulness of all performance - there may be rules to learn but performers and their audiences create a new experience every time. Although Nowell begins his show by saying everything is controlled, it is clear that each time he invites someone to participate, he cedes some of his control to us so that we can also play and create a new experience.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Being Hueman Being - Luke Nowell

Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens - PopMatters

Play is More Than Just Fun - Stuart Brown (TED)

Seriously Playful: Creativity, Being and Play - Institute of Arts and Ideas

The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time - Pacific Standard

Me and My Bee // ThisEgg

Me and My Bee is a family show, in the best sense of appealing equally to both adults and children. Like The Muppet Show or The Simpsons there are jokes that sail over the heads of the youngest but reveal a sharp seam of humour embedded in the show for the older attendees. The silly irreverence of what the group describe as a ‘political party, disguised as a party party, disguised as a show’, dramatizes the looming extinction of bees and asks that its audience join the three performers in helping them resist it. A lonely bee looks for a flower to pollinate through a series of dance routines, monologues and audience participation. Politics, ecology and disco converge. The bee’s story is continually framed in relation to his importance to the continuing survival of other species, and as a result of the impact of humans on the eco-systems he relies on.

Just what the extinction of bees would mean for the world is increasingly part of public discourse. The cataclysmic effects of colony collapse disorder (CCD) could result in the disappearance of not only honey but enormous amounts of crops that couldn’t survive without the pollinating insects. As this contributes to a shrinking of the resources of the world, the problems that we already see, of migration and of conflict, will be exasperated. Like the rest of the public, artists are waking up to this and attempting to raise the alarm on behalf of the furry little insects, from Reverend Billy to Black Mirror. The satirical clowning of Me and My Bee deals sillily with an incredibly serious issue, highlighting a pressing ecological issue to its young audience. As they leave, clutching a pack of seeds they’ve been encouraged to plant, they importance of reversing the decline becomes ingrained early on.

-       Lewis Church


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Me and My Bee - ThisEgg

Extinction of BeesGlobal Research

Honey Bee Extinction Will Change Life As We Know It - Motherboard

The Climate Change Generation GapThe Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Reverend Billy Vs Robobees

Black Mirror ‘Hated In the Nation’ The Atlantic

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

Primates // Tessa Coates

A stack of hefty hardback books wobbles next to the microphone throughout Tessa Coates's stand-up show. An aged academic tome sharing the title Primates is there, but also Girl's Own Adventures and the Famous Five - and is that a Harry Potter towards the bottom of the pile? Yes it is, and despite the initial suspicion that these books have been chosen solely for their looks, it turns out that they are all pertinent to the show.

Coates begins by thanking the audience profusely for coming, establishing her persona as an earnest, prudish and perhaps rather posh anthropology graduate who is going to share with us her passion for the study of humans, in particular the study of penises. But she adopts an alternative persona - a cool American - in order to express this as 'I love dick'. And she plays another character, her former lecturer, to introduce the subject. With a background in sketch comedy, Coates is a natural at putting on funny characters, but there is surely an anthropological angle to why it is easier to say certain things sincerely only when playing at being someone else.

Anthropology is the frame for the show. While we learn the reason for the human penis having the shape it does and why some sperm have been called 'kamikaze' by scientists, the content is mostly observational comedy about sex, dating and relationships. Perhaps that is a large part of anthropology, too. But if we understand modern human behaviour as simply the results of past evolutionary pressure and biology, does that reduce our experience of life and love? Like scientists from other disciplines (such as neuroscientist Anil Seth), Coates grapples with this dilemma, and earnestly concludes - in the character of the professor - that while life is essentially meaningless, we are all special.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Primates - Tessa Coates

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? - Huffington Post

Nothing to Be Afraid Of (Anil K. Seth) - Granta 

The Meaning of Life and the Search for Happiness - Popular Social Science (2013) 

Debating Self, Identity, and Culture in Anthropology - Current Anthropology (1999)

Is the Presented Self Sincere? Goffman, Impression Management and the Postmodern Self - Theory, Culture and Society (1992) 

The Science of Cringe // Maria Peters

As a child, Maria Peters went to school early every day to conduct a secret science project (investigating the effects of shampoo on hair strength). But she stopped when she could no longer keep it a secret from her friends, fearing social rejection. This is just one of many personal 'cringe-cidents' revealed during the course of her show, which uses comedy and science to explain what cringe is, why we feel it, and whether sharing the most cringeworthy experiences of her life will help her control her fear of rejection.

The audience, too, is invited to share, albeit anonymously. Everyone has the chance to write down an embarrassing memory that Peters will later use as the basis for an improvised reenactment or song. We get to cringe for each person's remembered experience as well as for them having it replayed in front of all of us. How much we cringe or laugh depends on our level of empathy - people's capacity to feel each other's emotions, including social and emotional pain, is a strong part of human culture. Cringe, it seems, helps bind us together and exclude anyone who doesn't quite fit. Peters pulls in arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to support this idea.

Research into modern-day emotions can be complicated and sophisticated, but can it help us cope when excessive cringe interferes with our lives? 'Shame attacks' form part of some types of behavioural therapy designed to ease social anxiety. Participants are tasked with going out and committing small acts of social disorder (loudly calling out every floor in a crowded lift, for example) in order to learn that cringing is not the end of the world. Peters seems to be trying something similar with this show, and her conclusion is that while cringe may sometimes save us from social embarrassment, it also sometimes stops us being who we truly are. Her suggestion is to embrace the cringe, and when everyone in the audience joins her in a most cringeworthy dance at the end of the show, it is hard to argue.

- Michael Regnier 


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

The Science of Cringe

Reputation is the Modern Purgatory - The History of Emotions Blog (2012)

The Centre for the History of Emotions - Queen Mary, University of London

Cells That Read MindsNew York Times

Evolutionary Psychology - Science Daily

Shame Attacks - The Albert Ellis Institute

Stegosaurus // ES Productions

The breadth of shows engaging with eating disorders at the Fringe in 2017 reflects the rising rate of admissions and treatment for anorexia, bulimia and newer, less clinically defined conditions. Presenting her story through a simply illustrated and focused monologue, Ersi Niaoti documents obsessive bingeing, harsh denial and destructive behaviours and their impact on her life. Tiny moments reinforce the everyday reality of conditions like these - a long pour of coke into a bucket like the sound of a purge, and the flick of a lighter an obsessive distraction. Her performance recounts a story familiar from several other shows, the continual denial of her own body’s needs and a warped sense of her own health and attractiveness. It focuses on bodily detail, on the bile and liquor of the condition, rendered in sharp language. She describes her personal climate as arctic and her visible bones as her jewellery. The bony ridges of an emaciated frame give the piece its name, a child’s observation on the changes in a loved one’s body.

The rise in eating disorders, amongst men as well as women, has been linked to the continual comparison engine of social media and shifts in popular culture. Obsessive gym going, personal grooming, and the obsession of taking the always best-facing picture perpetuate and reinforce a culture the encourages unfavourable measurement of your worst against the best of others. Clean eating, thinspiration and Tumblr goals lead more and more to a culture like that referred to in Professor Renee Englen’s psychological research as ‘beauty sick’. And whilst there are no simple answers to public health crises, continual comparison distorts perception. To observe something is to influence it, a continual pressure to change your body in the hope of better results.

Niaoti’s monologue focuses on her very personal experience of anorexia, bulimia and depression, but whilst the metaphor and language of Stegosaurus is affective in its subjectivity, the experience it documents is an increasingly familiar story.

-       Lewis Church


Links relevant to this diagnosis:


The Reality of Anorexia – b-eat (Beating Eating Disorders)

NHS Digital - Eating Disorder Admissions

Eating Disorders Rising All Around the WorldEating Disorder Hope 

Eating Disorders in Men - Guardian

When Beauty Obsession Becomes A Disease – Pacific Standard Magazine

Facebook Use and Poor Body Image - UNC Healthcare

Fashionable Medicine: Syphilis, Spas and Melancholy // Sibbald Library Productions

How should art deal with science and medicine? Should it even try? It often does, ‘science plays’ have been around for centuries, and films have covered these topics since their inception. How should those working in science and medicine explain what they do and why it’s important in a non-condescending way?

There are many different initiatives, such as the Pint of Science events that take place in pubs across the UK, which represent new ways of making science accessible. Fashionable Medicine: Syphilis, Spas and Melancholy is more of traditional approach. I listen to the lecture, watch the PowerPoint presentation and take notes. We’re in a venerable old hall that in itself might be off-putting for some, surrounded by portraits of great men (yes, men). Iain Milne and Daisy Cunynghame provide a slick double act; their presentation is funny in places and neither stuffy nor condescending. It is accessible to a far wider audience than has been tempted here. 

The lecture focuses on four aspects of fashionable medicine: theories, cures, diseases and clothes, using the college archives as illustration. They introduce the theory of disease linked to the four humours (black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm), which probably originated with Hippocrates nearly 2500 years ago, although it was later adapted by others, notably Galen. This nonsense wasn’t seriously challenged until the scientific and medical enlightenment that accelerated through the 18th and into the 19th century. Nevertheless, we still use concepts based on the humours, describing people as sanguine, phlegmatic and bilious. The fashionable cures involving spa waters at least did little harm, compared to other cures which were usually poisonous.

The main fashionable disease discussed was melancholy – a vague chronic disease, and thus ideal for doctors, who could prolong treatments and payment accordingly. Today’s fashionable disease is probably stress, a term that has been corrupted to cover everything from being very busy to suffering severe clinical depression. The syphilis of the title hardly gets a mention, but then concepts of contagion or infection were hazy and contentious until the mid-19th century. 

In contrast, Samantha Baines’ 1 Woman, A High-Flyer and A Flat Bottom, is a solo comedy act where she highlights 3 forgotten women of science. Its best example is Margaret E Knight, a 19th century inventor. Mattie lodged multiple patents and, amongst other inventions, came up with a machine to fold and glue the flat-bottomed paper bag that we all know. Baines' pun-laden informative comedy is a different way of making science accessible. Both ways are engaging and entertaining, but its important to engage if you are to be entertained. 

-       Alistair Lax


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Fashionable Medicine: Syphilis, Spas and Melancholy

Pint of Science

Science in Theatre

Royal College of Physicians Library Blog

Samantha Baines - 1 Woman, A High-Flyer and A Flat Bottom

Women Inventors