By Danielle Farrow
The result of a project in which accounts were invited from those affected by mental health problems, Strung Up Theatre Company’s Snap Out of It! presents verbatim perspectives, read from pieces of paper and interwoven with the occasional response from each performer involved.
This is a highly interesting project, reflecting views on various issues such as bi-polar, anorexia, depression, panic attacks and self-harm; views which also include thoughts from those close to sufferers and show the way in which one condition can still be regarded without much empathy by someone dealing with a different condition, though both require mental health assistance. Differing responses to the idea of just being able to ‘snap out of it’ are explored, and music and poetry from sufferers are also presented.
In a bed-sit setting, with clothes lines for pages to be pegged upon, the lighting is one basic state and some use is made of audience seats as well as the armchair, mattress and floor of the stage. The fairly young cast does not represent the breadth of ages involved, with only one excerpt highlighting the age of an older contributor, and in one section words were lost due to overly quiet expression. There is also a somewhat unvarying tone, particularly adopted by a couple of the performers, which is not really demanded by the subject matter. However, once warmed up and speaking directly to audience members, the actors connected well to most of the material and there are many resonances struck for those familiar with such issues.
Though bi-polar disorder was mentioned, no exploration is made of the manic state. This may well rest on the contributions received, but inclusion would have helped to vary pace and atmosphere, which mostly focused on depression and the sympathy obviously felt by the performers for the people whose words they are reading.
Where Snap Out of It! really delivers – and elicits emotional response – is in looking at views on labelling conditions, distorted perceptions, the continued stigma involved that leads to repeated requests for anonymity – despite the bravery and generosity of those writing in – and a couple of touches lighting on questions of nature and nurture: how much is genetics and how much environment? Emphasis falls on talking about problems, which is unsurprising given the nature of the project and its innate connection to communication.
Snap Out of It! seems a labour of love: one that is intriguing in its subject matter, mostly clear in its presentation and of real importance in giving voice to people who all too often feel there is no-one who will listen, let alone actually understand.