A Performers Perspective



Rob (name changed) is 46 years old and has had mental health difficulties since the age of 11, including a mental breakdown in 2007.

“Depression and anxiety have been my companions for a long time.

I have been looking for answers and escape from my issues without returning to medication. Cognitive behavioural therapy has not worked for me recently, so where to turn?

I saw a post on Facebook asking for male volunteers for the Power of Performance project and was intrigued to say the least. I am a solo musician, used to performing to an audience but I have never acted.

After attending the second introductory meeting facilitated by Andy Wood, I was hooked on the idea of exploring the impact of masculinity on mental health.

Our homework before the workshops was tough. Writing milestones on post it notes giving examples of the hegemonic ideal and its impact during our lives. This was particularly tough for me as this was largely the catalyst for my struggles with mental illness.

Moving through the dramatic process during workshops 1 and 2 was fascinating. Through trust games and role play, boundaries that may have existed between the group broken down. A group of strangers in an alien environment working together to a common goal “The Performance”, using and developing skills we may not have known we had.

As we listened to the story, written and developed by Tom our theatrical director and drawn from our post it notes, I found myself in a great deal of emotional turmoil. Whilst the details of HIMs story were different to my own, I found the theme scarily like my own. This left me feeling raw, like an open wound by the end of our second session.

On the third week we split into 2 groups and formulated our performances. After a difficult week coming to terms with the demons which had been released, when it came to picking parts I was happy to step forward as HIM. I almost had to be HIM. Knowing how I felt being HIM I hoped I would be able to emote what the character was going through.

With Andy, Thom and the groups help and hard work I discovered a skill I never knew I had. With nothing more than my face, body and an old woolly hat for a prop I was able to express every emotion to the extent that anyone watching knew exactly what was happening.

The performance itself was an experience I will never forget. Pre-show nerves and the anxiety felt standing behind the curtain, realising how many people were there, soon gave way as I sat alone centre stage.

When we finished our version of events, took the amazing applause and enjoyed our compatriots performance I was immensely proud of our collective achievement.

Whilst I knew the Q&A session was coming I was not prepared for the profound effect. I was amazed by the amount of people who stayed, were actively involved and the amount of heartfelt questions.

It was obvious that our efforts had struck a chord with everyone present and helped some to realise they are not alone.

I feel the efforts of Andy, Thom and the group exceeded the brief and hope that the creative matters team and the Theatre Royal are as proud as I am.

I would be more than happy to discuss the events of the last month with anyone should it be required”.

Barry Allard