Help at The Wardrobe Theatre

It’s hard to ask for help right? Particularly when you feel like you have ‘no mouth’, as Viki Browne so eloquently tells us. Mental health is a hot topic with a number of shows at Edinburgh festival covering the subject – Help by Viki Browne was in the top picks of the ‘must sees’.

Poetic interludes punctuated the show, personally I could have listened to much more of these, Vikki’s writing is visually stunning and paints a relatable metaphorical world of mental health.

Viki welcomed the audience in and asked people how they were, personalising the audience participation by remembering peoples names.

I work in arts and health and have seen many shows around the subject of mental health, so I wasn’t the average audience member. It was clear that for a large percentage of the audience being open and honest about mental health experiences was new. I could see the audience members were captivated by Viki’s honesty and rawness in the material she was sharing. Viki cultivated a connection at the beginning of the show by laying bare the facts around having a mental health assessment and inviting the audience to ask her questions.

What stood out for me was how we were welcomed into the theatre, there was a clear breakdown of what to expect in the show and the usher was available to support anyone with any additional needs. This prompted me to reflect on how accessible venues really are to people with high anxiety and I will go on to have further conversations around this in my work.

Aside from the serious note of mental health Viki reassures the audience at the beginning that she is fine and alright and promises that the show will be a good time for us all. This was true. Butter racing as the whole audience danced with pumping music and a projection of Viki’s head spinning on stage was my happy place.

The stage and Viki herself are covered in silver creating a feeling of being an ‘other’ in an alien world, a feeling that is very familiar to most people needing mental health support. The more these much needed conversations happen around this subject the better. This was well illustrated by a sold out performance and a solo performer showing what goes on behind the fake smile.

You can see what else is on at The Wardrobe Theatre here

Viki’s website is here

Image by Matt Austin, with thanks

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