Monday 28th March 2016
Broken Little Robots – day one (again)
Today The Roaring Girls embarked on day one of our biggest projects to date. This was the first day of R&D for revising Broken Little Robots, and we started slow. We spent the day just talking. We talked about everything that we wanted from the project – how it should look, and sound, and feel. We were joined by James Frewer, who will be providing music for the show, and Jess’s three dogs, and we talked, and we listened. Because that’s what this project is all about – the conversation. Because that conversation is so important.
So, let’s talk. Let’s talk about mental health.
It is a difficult thing to give a voice to your depression. To stand in the spotlight and illuminate the darkest corners of yourself. And this is partly due to the stigma that still surrounds mental illness – the fear that everyone will look at you differently, the shame that you have lost control of yourself. But it’s also due to the inadequacy of words. It is so hard to describe depression, especially to someone who has no experience of it. It is hard to express how mental illness feels in a way that gives significant resonance to the truth. And it’s hard overcome the fear that giving it a name feeds that monster. But I think that it’s important to try. In truth, I believe that the monster is fed by fear and silence. And the more I have engaged in conversations about mental health the more I’ve found that my own demons aren’t unique. And each time I find someone I share that monster with, the beast gets a little less scary.
In researching mental illness we’ve found a myriad of ways to describe how it feels, from Matt Haig’s description of an “intense flickering” in his head, to Churchill’s infamous “black dog”. I myself am not a writer, so I hope you’ll forgive me any clunky adjectives or mixed metaphors as I try to articulate what depression is to me. What is exciting about this project is that we’re not relying solely on words to express ourselves. Depression is, in our experiences, a bodily illness, and we cannot ignore the physical side of it. If we are going to talk about mental illness we must do it as honestly and authentically as possible. So we will explore how to embody the blackness and hollowness of a sleepless night, or the tight chest and shallow breathing of a panic attack. And we will explore how that sounds- Frewer’s involvement from day one is crucial, as the music is an integral part of the collaborative development of the show, interwoven into its fabric.
I fully expect this week to be exhausting, but it is so exciting to be working on this show again. It seems like such a long time ago that Rachael suggested a project which would explore and discuss mental illness. Although the thought of expressing something so intimate was terrifying to me, I saw the value in sharing our stories. Because it it is our stories. This show is absolutely rooted in the autobiographical. And a year later, that is still terrifying. Broken Little Robots is named for that feeling of being, well, broken. It’s that sense that everyone else is functioning perfectly while you’re sluggish, or bugged, or complete shutting down. Your emotions are working overtime and overworking your system, or not at all and it feels as though you’re just mechanically going through the motions. As Rachael said “everyone is a little broken in their own way”. And she’s right. So that’s what we’re aiming to articulate with this show- that it isn’t uncommon or incomprehensible to break, but that it is innately human.
We hope that by sharing our experiences we will engage you in that conversation. We will confront your assumptions about mental illness, or give you hope, or encourage you to share your own story. Because that conversation about it is so important.
So whether you find yourself suffocating in the sour air of Plath’s bell jar, plagued by Churchill’s black dog, or like us you’re just a broken little robot, let’s talk.
Talk. Listen. Encourage talking. Encourage listening. Keep adding to the conversation. Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation. Keep reiterating, again and again, that depression is not something you ‘admit to’, it is not something you have to blush about, it is a human experience.
– Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive