The Art Of Not Getting Lost
Brand new play tackles the stigma of mental health
A brand new play tackling the stigma of mental health is set to be performed for the first time at both Stockton’s ARC and Northern Stage in Newcastle over the next few weeks. Written and directed by Saltburn based Vici Wreford-Sinnott, The Art of Not Getting Lost follows the story of two characters who have made their home in the hidden tunnels of London’s Bakerloo Station.
Creating their own fictional Lost Property Centre to help them retrace their lives, are they hiding themselves or are they actually being hidden from public view? Vici said: “One in four of us will experience mental health distress at some point in our lives. It does not define who we are, but there remain many negative and stereotypical perceptions.
“It affects all of us in some way, and if we do not talk about it, it will remain hidden, shameful and stigmatised.”
Vici, originally from Durham, has carved a career in ground breaking theatre, said: “The play is an exploration of friendship, truth and lies, and what happens to people when they are under pressure of stigma. Do they hide, do they look the other way, or do they stand up and be counted?"
“I’ve taken some of my own experiences and my two characters – Everyone and No-One – have allowed me to tell the stories of mental health past and present, and to look at how we have arrived at our ideas of what is and isn’t ‘normal.’
“The play looks at two aspects of mental health. We have the personal experiences of someone undergoing mental health problems, and how that affects them and the people around them. And there’s the wider issue of the continued stigmatisation both throughout history and right up to the here and now of people experiencing mental health problems.”
The Art of Not Getting Lost has been supported with funding from Arts Council England, and produced in association with ARC Stockton & Zinc Arts, Essex and is performed by Ree Collins and Eleanor Crawford.
ARC, Stockton: Wednesday 20 May. 7pm. Age: 14+. Tickets: £pay what you decide. Box Office: 01642 525 199 or www.arconline.co.uk
Northern Stage, Newcastle: Thursday 25 June. 7.30pm. Tickets: £10 / £8 concs. Box Office: 0191 230 5151 or www.northernstage.co.uk
Additional / Background info on Vici Wreford-Sinnott
Vici grew up in Co Durham in the North East of England and moved to London in the 1980s. She went on to study Contemporary Thetre Performance, Women in Theatre and specialised in Theatre Direction at the University of Kent.
She returned north in 1993 and set up Sycorax Theatre Company – ‘the first feminist theatre group in the East Durham coalfield!’ “That really made me a much stronger person,” said Vici. “And I found a lot of miners’ wives and local women had become much more politically aware because of the miners’ strike.”
Vici moved to Dublin in 2000 to become the Chief Executive of Arts & Disability Ireland. It was here that Vici directed the first National Disability Arts Festival in the Republic, and directed two of the first pieces of professional disability theatre in Dublin – ‘The Baby Doll Project’ by Rosaleen McDonagh which won a Metro Eireann Award and ‘Broadcast’ co devised with Donal Toolan, which was commissioned for the Dublin Fringe Festival.
Moved to Saltburn to be closer to family in 2003, becoming Chief Executive of Arcadea – the regional organisation for promoting disability equality in the arts. Her successful six-year directorship included being the artistic director of the Mimosa Festival across the North East including venues such as Sage Gateshead and Northern Stage.
Vici took a break from theatre in 2010 but after a period of baking herself well and knitting herself a life, the playwriting instinct kicked in again and, in 2011, Vici set up Little Cog Theatre Company. She’s since directed three plays, established three residencies (one at Stockton’s ARC and two at Zinc Arts in Essex), and has also set up Not-So-Silent Films – aiming to give a voice to disabled film-makers.
Outlining the motivation behind writing her new play, The Art of Not Getting Lost, Vici said …..
The piece is set in a self-styled Lost Property Centre where many of the artefacts of mental health history have been located and remain hidden.
“Throughout history, there’s always been a huge stigmatisation – either brutally or slightly under the radar - of people experiencing mental health problems.
“In Victorian times, people could pay a penny to go into asylums to see the so-called ‘mad people’ for entertainment. Slightly further ahead in time, the Nazi’s used a ‘black triangle’ to identify people with mental health problems or people who were known as 'asocial'. They were actually used as Hitler’s first experiment on the ‘Final Solution’ before he turned his attentions onto the Jewish population.
“Then we had the early days of modern psychiatry – whilst there have been advances, there were decades of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) which was heavily used throughout the 1940s and 50’s, administered without anaesthetic – plus the over-prescription of dangerously addictive medication leaving people in a haze and unable to function properly, with 'treatment' administered without consent.
“Stigmatisation is still evident today and is very oppressive, disabled people and people with mental health problems have been vilified in the public domain - you’d really think we could find ways to be humane, have dignity, offer support and ensure that the stories and experiences of disabled people and people with mental health problems are told.
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