An intimate evening exploring the anxiety issues of a well-known Norfolk comedian, the moving story of a battle with depression, the creation of a short work exploring the issues around men’s mental health issues, and a series of short films telling real-life stories of the impact of mental illness, will form part of a programme of work which brings men’s wellbeing into sharp focus.
Norwich Theatre Royal’s regular series of Creative Matters seasons aim to stimulate discussion and creativity on different issues within a safe space. Men’s mental wellbeing was selected as statistics show middle-aged men in Norfolk are very unlikely to seek help and support for their wellbeing and suicide rates are above the national average, particularly amongst men aged 30 to 64. So the Theatre Royal has partnered with Norfolk County Council’s public health team to create this season. It will be a chance to hear how a prominent member of the region’s entertainment community battled his own demons with Meet Karl Minns on January 26th. One-half of the popular Nimmo Twins hosts this intimate evening. The performer and comedy-writer for the likes of Have I Got News For You and Unspun will share his experiences of battling anxiety in conversation with the theatre’s chief executive Stephen Crocker. His first performance at 7.30pm has sold out, but he has added a second at 5.30pm, so be quick!
The comedic, but sensitive story of one man’s battle with depression is brought to the stage in I Had A Black Dog on January 18th. Based on Matthew Johnston’s international bestseller, it tells the story of Joe who falls in love, but finds there is always a third presence in his life; the black dog of the title, representing his depression. Presented by the East Anglian-based Small Nose Productions which specialise in creating works that supports people while making them think, aims to challenge people’s views of inclusion and exclusion.
There is also the chance for men from the region to put together their own play looking at men’s mental health issues. The Power Of Performance will begin on January 12th, which will see expert speakers and drama practitioners look at the relationship between masculinity and mental health. This will then lead to the creation of a special performance of work created by and featuring local men who wish to take part in it on January 25th.
And getting involved with this new season of Creative Matters is one of its key aims with a number of workshops. January 29th will see a Gecko Physical Theatre Workshop where the Ipswich-based company will explore the idea that everyone has the same core emotional needs that are required for a healthy mind. Two days later, the acclaimed Norwich-based MoCO Theatre Company presents a Frankenstein Workshop and Open Rehearsal. Fresh from the success of their production of A Clockwork Orange, they are developing Mary Shelley’s classic novel as a part production and part installation for 2018 focusing on dialogue and engagement around mental health. On January 31st, they will present an open rehearsal and accompanying workshop which members of the audience can take part in if they wish.
Meanwhile poets, singer-songwriters and spoken word artists are invited to explore men’s wellbeing and mental health issues as the stimulus and inspiration for performances at an Open Mic night on January 24th, which is being supported by the student-run listening service Norwich Nightline. And families can also explore their emotions in Theatre Crafts and Tales on January 13th, where theatre crafts and storytelling take centre stage. All ages will also be able to create something they can take away with them.
Two films will also form part of the season. On January 17th, there will be a screening of Ron Howard’s critically acclaimed movie A Beautiful Mind. It stars Russell Crowe as mathematical genius John Nash who finds his success at solving increasingly difficult equations is paralleled by health problems which culminate in a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Meanwhile Pixar’s family movie favourite Inside Out is shown on January 20th. It follows the story of Riley who has to move from the Midwest to San Francisco and her emotions conflict as she gets to grips with a new city, house and school in a funny, exciting and poignant movie which helps us understand our feelings. Each of the events in Stage Two will also be preceded by films and animations. Some will be under the banner Bigger Picture where people can talk through their own wellbeing and mental health stories while there will also be Moving Pictures, which are animations created by those with mild to moderate mental health conditions. These have been co-ordinated by Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind which provides help and support to those with conditions, helps to remove the stigma surrounding them and campaigns for better services and help. There will also be an exhibition entitled Portraits on January 12th – 31st, which will feature a range of works exploring joy and anxiety. Artist Kevin Parker will use a variety of materials including the likes of emulsions, bitumen, spray paint, wallpapers, plaster and tape for his work.
Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said this new season tackles an important issue while also fitting in with the ethos of Creative Matters to give people a voice and the chance to creatively express their views. He said: “The season provides a platform and safe space in the heart of our city for people of all ages across Norfolk to explore and engage with key issues in our world today. Following the success of our debut season on gender and sexual identity, we are delighted to be working with the county council on a season which focuses on men’s mental health and the stigma surrounding it. “Statistics show that men living and working here are some of the least likely to seek help and we hope this season will help show there are people out there to help and reduce the stigma around the whole issue through the power of creativity and discussion.”