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Pathways to Art case study

Interview with Mandy who participated in the Playmaking sessions

This interview was featured in the Summer edition of Allerdale Outlook and distributed around homes in Allerdale in July 08.

1. What was it that interested you about the playmaking/ creative writing sessions?

 I had been writing some poetry and writing generally appealed to me as I had not done any seriously since I was at school.  Due to my illness my concentration levels tended to be low and being creative helped with this.  After the first session Dave Napthine from Changeling productions inspired me to try writing more, maybe a play. Dave’s manner and the way he approaches a subject meant there wasn’t any pressure just encouragement to give it a go, which made me think why not!

How did you hear about them?

Lynda another participant went along to the sessions in Whitehaven and asked for similar sessions to work with a group she is involved with called Positive Spirit, due to low numbers in Whitehaven the session was moved to Workington.

2.      Was it hard to decide to go along to a session?

It wasn’t hard for me personally due to doing some stage performances previously with Positive Spirit. 

Why did you go along?

Curiosity and wanting to hear what I could do, I was inspired at the session and couldn’t wait to get home and start writing.

3.      You are very open about your experiences how has writing the play helped this?

In the beginning I was ashamed, because people stigmatise you if you have mental health problems. I got over the fear of the stigma by being open and talking about it and by not being afraid to talk about it, especially when you are bi polar which I am and it could happen to 1 in 4 people. It was one of the messages I was trying to get across in my poetry, to stand up for yourself and not be afraid, poetry started the process off.

When discussing the initial idea and brief for the play originally, Dave Napthine said what ever you write you have to be able to defend it 100 %. People will criticise what ever you write and you have to be prepared to stand by it. This made me think about my mental health and when I was in hospital and writing about it, you can’t write a play and then not want to talk about the experiences it is based on.

4.      How did you find the first few sessions? Why did you keep going?

It’s a relaxing and creative atmosphere, funny, everyone having a laugh and its good to have a laugh when you are ill and we all clicked together, a really nice group to be in, with an accepting and supportive environment.

5.      You’ve been involved in 3 blocks of sessions now. Do you still enjoy going to the sessions?

Oh yeah, why not! I enjoy helping other people and people are now asking for my advice and to help them, which is nice, it increases my own confidence and the opportunities which have been made available through going.  Dave was talking about getting a professional actress (Shelly) in to work with and to have a performance of the play and I thought he was joking and didn’t believe him for ages and then Shelly turned up it was like wow.

6.      What are the best 3 things about attending?

  •  Social networking, interacting with other people, no pressure able to be yourself and have a laugh.
  • I enjoyed the puppet making with Ali as I hadn’t done that before. I got the chance to make big shadow puppets for my play. Working with Ali on setting the stage, specifying where I wanted the characters, props and the space was used, that stage direction I found really interesting. While writing for the radio show we worked on being serious and funny at the same time.
  • Working with Shelly (a professional actress) was good, as initially Shelly didn’t understand mental health issues. I talked her through the monologues in the play, explaining how it needs to be said and the reasons why is needs to be that way, she had never played that type of role before, it was great to be able to go through it with Shelly and give her a better understanding of the character and illness.  I found it great being the director and writer of the play, being able to direct the performances to reflect the way I had imagined it working while writing the play. I also enjoyed being in the audience on the day.

7.      How do you feel the sessions have had an impact on you, your life and your writing/creativity?

For me – telling my own story, my family didn’t know the whole story about my illness and I hadn’t shown them my work until the performance, they said I got it down to a T. The play helped to tell them what happened inside the hospital.  The play was a way of communicating my thoughts and feelings and gave my family a better understanding of the time and how it was not always safe for me inside.

Future – Shelly wants to give the play to a director she has worked with, so who know where that could lead.

8.      Your play was performed on the Open Stage Night at Rosehill Theatre. How did it feel to have your work performed by a professional actor? What was the process?

Shelly was an excellent, she created an amazing emotional response from the audience to the play, both my mum and I had tears in our eyes at parts and I wrote it!  Working with Shelly was a really nice experience. I was nervous because I was frightened in case people didn’t like or understand the play, and especially uncomfortable with the swearing I had put into a scene, as I wasn’t brought up that way.  Dave helped me to develop the play and encouraged me to represent situations the way they really were for it to be true to life, to the point where I got carried away, but a censored version wouldn’t have had the impact.

I really enjoyed working with Dave, Ali and Shelly- whoever I’ve worked with I’ve enjoyed it, it was something new with an end product I was working towards.  At first I had a sense of disbelief that they wanted to work on my play and that it was good enough, you have to be trustful of their abilities  At the end of the process I was proud of myself for finishing writing it and going through the whole process.

9.       Do you think there is a need for this project to carry on?

Yes, because I’ve got so much out of it, we all have, seeing other participants over coming their problems,  its nice to be involved in that way.  I’m more advanced in my recovery and I can get involved in the way I do, helping others sharing their work and experiences.  Its great being able to achieve something in a supportive environment. I really miss the project when it’s on a break.

10. What does the future hold for you? What do you hope to do now?

I would like to write another play, the project has given me more encouragement.  I’m also hoping to do some voluntary work helping out in a theatre or backstage. Doing the project has given me options.  The project is excellent and absolutely brilliant for me and that’s how I feel about it. I’m advanced in my recovery as it is and it’s given me that extra lift.  People are often frightened to talk about how they feel and could never let it out.

11.  Do you think the project has helped participants to talk about their experiences?

The social networking side is helping people by being able to talk to others with similar experiences, while not being a therapy group there is added benefit to the group in this way.  The group members understand each other, if someone wants to talk they talk and if they don’t then they don’t, its accepted.  I could relapse tomorrow and its so nice to know there is something there to focus on, its really worth while, I think.

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