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Mental's a funny business

This week we were joined in rehearsal by theatre-maker, Matt Harper. He was kind enough to write a few of his thoughts on working with the company.

I am a very strong believer in that the best way to alter a perception is not to discuss the issue at all, but rather to demonstrate the positive change you want to see occur. This was summed up so astutely when I got to work with Out of Character last Thursday evening. Yes, the company is made up of past and current mental health service users, but first and foremost they are actors – and this shows in the way in which they work.
Out of Character are an ambitious and talented company where the focus is placed strongly on the making of high quality theatre, rather than on the discourse around mental health. This to me shows just how sophisticated they are; by producing skilfully executed, dynamic performances as a group of mental health services users, without carrying a ‘mental health placard’ onto stage they are saying so much more about mental health – these are committed and talented actors who have more to them than just a diagnosis. What an empowering message. So you can imagine my excitement of being able to join them for a rehearsal.
The rehearsal centered on clowning techniques – and what ensued was two hours of sheer joy. Even as a freelance theatre maker, I must admit I was quite apprehensive as I was a little rusty in terms of my acting ability and this feeling was almost strengthened when I saw the other talent in the room. But the positive, supportive energy and can-do, no inhibitions attitude in the space is felt and exuded by everyone in the company; this is clearly one of the things that makes this company so successful.

Very quickly I was clowning around without a care in the world, making routines and sound effects with the company actors. It was so enjoyable – I mean laugh out loud enjoyable…and at no point was mental health mentioned.
Out of Character are exceptional both in terms of ability, approach and message!

Thank you again for having me.