The Fringe, mental health and performers: 'If you're struggling, don't feel like you have to do it alone'
- Lorna Irvine
- 3 August 2018
We talked to companies tackling the subject of mental health about how they plan to look after their own well-being during the Fringe
One in four people in Britain are currently affected by mental health problems, according to the charity Mind. It's a troubling statistic. With the mayhem of the Fringe a potential hotspot for excess, anxiety and stress, many of the companies exploring mental health have now designed strategies for self-care during August in Edinburgh. Here they offer up a selection of tips and sage advice, demonstrating that mental health is more than just a fashionable theme for a show.
Gulliver Returns focuses on a life-changing trauma faced by a couple, and a man caught up in a fantasy world. Writer and director Dan Coleman explains: 'It uses the idea of a person becoming lost in a book to explore the dislocating effect that grief has on your sense of self, the world, relationships with others'. As for the Fringe, he says: 'I think having your own space is really important. Keeping in contact with the outside world is really important. Getting some sleep is really important. The occasional fried Mars bar helps as well.'
Writer Lucy Danser's new show Lost In Thought aims to dispel some myths around OCD, focusing on Felicity, a young woman with the condition. 'It's naturally difficult to stay healthy at the Fringe, but we are even more serious about it this year because of the topic of the play and our writer and actor both having OCD,' she says. 'A core part of that has been the importance of accommodation and healthy eating. We've organised accommodation for our team that's not too far but also not too central to the hubbub of the festival to ensure that everyone has a place that's calm and quiet.'
Bebe Sanders, writer and performer of Violet warns against alcohol. 'If you are feeling anxious or mentally unstable, it is a categorically terrible idea – something I learnt the hard way. Also, all the basics: try and get enough sleep, eat good food, not just chips from a van. And try to connect with other people who might be experiencing similar things to you. There are some wonderful ways to connect with people – just reach out. If you're struggling, don't feel like you have to do it alone.'
Lesley Wilson, writer of Wired, which deals with PTSD in the military – and systemic misogyny – takes the advice of Fringe veterans. 'I often hear them saying, "It's a marathon not a sprint", which I think is good advice. I think what I learned last year, and am holding close to my heart, is to keep my feet on the ground and remember that the Fringe comes and goes but life, love and relationships go on beyond August.'
'Personally, I've got my running shoes and I'm going to start an intimate relationship with Arthur's Seat,' says Robin Kelly of Valerie, an intergenerational cabaret. 'Positive self-care in the Fringe has been a lynchpin of our strategy for coming to Edinburgh. We're coming from New Zealand, which means a huge financial burden, but leaving our support structures behind. So as a company we're looking inward to support each other with super-practical steps. The most important of these is that we have scheduled time across August to check back in with families/therapists/partners/friends at home, and we all understand that that is a priority which supersedes anything else.'