More thoughts on mental health in the theatre – point me in the direction of better stories.


Just so you know chaps, Spoilers ahead…

Two weekends ago I went to see the play Equus with a friend of mine. I don’t want to turn this blog into a ‘review of psychological plays’ blog, or indeed give the impression that I am more cultured than I am, always off to the theatre. The reality is more sitting in bed watching telly with my partner and cats rather than glamorous outings to the theatre. However I do have some more thoughts on this issue after seeing this play.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on Cypress Avenue by David Ireland (which was on at the Royal Court Theatre) but now I can’t seem to find the blog post, only the title – did anyone see the text? – it was a good post (even if I do say so myself) but wordpress seems only to have saved the title. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t think I’m going to re-write that post. Basically by thoughts were: was very funny, and probably has a lot to say about the legacy of violence in Northern Ireland. It’s the kind of play that middle class people  who are mostly untroubled by violence or poverty (I say this being a middle class person) come out of saying things like ‘shocking’, and ‘very powerful’. However from the point of view of talking about mental health, it’s really problematic. I’m really fed up with the ‘traumatised man goes mad and kills his whole family narrative’, it’s time for the ‘person goes through trauma and then turns that experience into something positive for them and their community’ narrative’, or the ‘person goes through trauma, and it’s pretty horrible, but they end up ok, and don’t kill anyone narrative.’ So that’s a summary of what that was about – I am sorry if you ended up seeing a blog post with a title and no content (especially after I claimed I was going to be a bit more consistent with my blogging again).

Cypress Avenue was a relatively new play compared to Equus, which was written by Peter Shaffer in 1973. I liked this one better, performed at the Stratford Playhouse, as I will explain, but I have different issues with this one. So basically it’s a play about a boy who blind’s six horses with a spike, which was a real world event in the 1970’s. Apparently the playwright wanted to think about what would drive a person to do such a thing. The story is of a boy who has built a vivid inner mental world that results in the blinding horses situation. It’s quite an intellectual play, based on a psychoanalytical perspective that ultimately manages to tie (because it’s freudian after all) everything back to some sexual event. I’m being a bit glib and a bit brief here but that’s the jist of it – I enjoyed the play and think it’s worth seeing/ reading. There were some really wonderful physical performances by the actors, and it very much treats the young man as a person, as a human being in pain, not as some kind of monster. I liked it for that. I also like that it kind of raises the question of whether it is right to take away someone’s belief system, just because it does not align with the majority view, although it does not answer this question (I am not sure that it could).

But here’s my problem with it. Many times through the play we hear that ‘the boy is in misery’ but we don’t actually see much of that on stage. So it’s a bit of sanitised view of that misery, and mostly we just have to take the word of the ‘professionals’ on the stage that this is the case. The boy has built an elaborate belief system around horses, and he then goes on to violate that belief system by attempting a sexual act in the stable (the symbolic Temple of Equus). The whole play basically treats mental illness as a puzzle – if you can just solve the puzzle then you will fix the person. I just don’t think it works like that in real life for many people. It’s an intellectual approach to mental health that I don’t think really respects the kind of pain and distress that people live with and go through. Many people who experience mental health problems (including myself) haven’t built elaborate belief systems that can be analysed and ‘solved’ in this way. Many people have been through understandable trauma, or live difficult, stressful lives, or are bullied and belittled on a regular basis or made to feel by society that they are ‘wrong’ in some fundamental way. It’s not a complicated secret to them where their pain comes from, what is complicated is how to alleviate that pain. For most people experiencing mental distress – it’s not a puzzle that can be solved and fixed, it’s an ongoing, day by day experience that they continue to endure. Understanding your own story can be the start of a healing journey, but it’s rarely the whole solution.

So, I still think we need better stories about mental health. However, as I confessed to at the beginning of this post, I am someone who mostly sits around with her partner and cats watching telly, it’s very likely that I have missed them. I would very much appreciate it if anyone has any good recommendations for plays, films, or books that give a more nuanced picture of mental health. Drop your recommendation in the comments – at some point I will write a post about the results.

Posted in Anxiety, Art, Craft, creative work, Theatre | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I think my cat may be a vampire…

I have been a bit quiet lately, despite saying I would be getting back to blogging. I’m knee deep in an IVF cycle at the moment and I’ve been really tired. I hope to be more functional soon.

In the meantime here is a little picture of my sleepy cat, who I think may be hiding a secret double life as a vampire.

Posted in Cats, infertility | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

My cat doesn’t think I should be working…

I’m trying to work at home today. My cat thinks this means I’m available all day for cuddles, and is not impressed with the laptop.

Posted in Cats | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Reasons to be grateful: being able to change my living situation.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here on the blog. After a lot of disruption we’ve finally managed to move into a new area in London and have even unpacked some of the boxes.  There were a few months when we were looking and looking, but it turns out that just before Brexit is not the best time to move, and there weren’t many flats available that would work for us. But we did manage it in the end. We’ve been in for about two weeks and have some interesting new views to look at, as you can see in the picture above. The change of location has really made a difference to our life style, which I’m pretty pleased about. I have managed to claw back an hour of free time in the evening through the move, and am able to walk a good chunk of the journey to work now (although some mornings my legs are not so happy about that). I would like to say I’ve immediately put that hour to use by making art, but I’ve only been mildly successful there. One of the reasons for this is that we have welcomed some new additions to the Magpie Nest.

Yes, we’ve adopted two rescue cats. They are older cats, and have arrived with us in a somewhat ‘plump’ state, shall we say. For followers of this blog you will know that we spent the last year trying to deal with infertility, and that there will be more fertility treatment a bit later this year. While we have not been successful so far in conceiving, we have been successful in expanding our little family to create a home for these fellas, who have settled in quite quickly to their new surrounding. In the process I am rapidly transforming into someone who can sustain long and meaningful ‘conversations’ with her cats. I am not sure what this will mean for my art, but I do feel pretty happy about it.

I am hoping now we are at least partially settled that I will be able to resume a more consistent blogging schedule from now on. Hopefully it will be something like once a week, with some extras here and there. I think I’ll be getting back to the Objects with Meaning project, and will be sharing a bit more art as well.

I hope everyone who reads this blog is well, and that I will hear from you all in the near future.

With Love


Posted in Cats, gratitude, mental health | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Art and other things in 2019


Followers of this blog may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet of late. I wasn’t feeling particularly wordy before Christmas, and things have been bit busy since. However, I am feeling quite a bit better now, and I’m going to try to get back to more regular posting from now on. Posting is still likely to be inconsistent for the next 6 weeks or or so, as I’ll be moving house, which will be disruptive. We’ve made a decision to move into the centre of town which will be much closer to work, but more expensive. I’ve also needed to go back to full time working for the time being as there is too much to do at work for me on 4 days a week at the moment. That will help with the cost of things, but will eat into my creative time. I think the move will make life a lot easier. There will be no train travel, which is increasingly expensive, inconsistent, and stressful, and more time in the evenings for creative things. There will also be more time for swimming and climbing with my sister, when I don’t need to send an hour travelling each way anymore.

I have two big creative projects planned this year. I’ll be trying to finish my film, and trying to write my novel. I’ll be posting bits and pieces of both here, along with another whimsical arts projects I get going with on the way. I hope that you will let me know if you like any of this as we go along. I’ll also be getting back to the ‘Objects with Meaning’ Project. Moving house is a good time to look at things, throw bits out, and remember why you keep the things that you do.

On that note I’m going to finish off by directing you to another blog that has really been embracing an ‘Objects with Meaning’ theme recently. One Woman on a Journey has recently been making posts about objects she has found in her own house at she ‘declutters’. Please go over there and read these lovely posts about Captain Ted Funnel, a special wine glass, and a hook.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Posted in Craft, Objects with meaning | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Reasons to be grateful #9 – misty winter sunsets like these

I’m at home with my parents this weekend. We headed out for a walk in the woods rather later than I would have preferred today due to various reasons and for the first few moments of the walk I was kind of annoyed.

But if we had left earlier we would have missed this wonderful misty wintery sun setting over the Severn estuary in the Cotswolds.

So we were lucky to be late today.

Posted in Brilliant Britain, gratitude, nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thinking about next year

I have been a bit quiet of late. I’ve been really tired and had to concentrate my energies of doing just a few things rather than the usual broader scope of stuff I get involved in. However I’ve not been sitting around doing nothing. I have begun to write a novel that has been hanging around in my head for several years now, and am not so far off finishing my film now. I’ve also enjoyed seeing some art recently, and particularly enjoyed the chunks of arctic ice that were outside of the Tate Modern for a short while (see photos here).

I’m hoping with the coming of the new year I’ll be feeling a bit more like myself again. Keeping that in mind I’ve been thinking a bit about when next year has in store. We’ll be moving house in February, to be closer to work. The rationale is that this will cut down on travel time and be a bit less stressful, although more expensive. It looks very likely that we’ll also be starting IVF later in the year so that is something to get mentally and physically prepared for. With that in mind I have more swimming, climbing and walking planned, and maybe a bit of running too. How about you?

Creatively I have quite a few things planning. I’m hoping to wrap up my film this year and get a draft done of my novel (or novella, I’m not sure how long it will be). I’m thinking about publishing some short sections here – is that something you would like to read? I’m also planning more art and the beginnings of an animated story. So that’s plenty to be getting on with.

I hope you have all had a good festive break and are looking forwards to the new year.

Posted in Craft, creative work, infertility | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment