20 Fringe shows talking about mental health

Twenty Fringe shows talking about mental health

Sofie Hagen: Dead Baby Frog

Theatre, comedy, spoken word and music exploring and discussing mental health

The Fringe has always been a place to find interesting, funny, or heartbreaking shows that tackle serious subjects, but there's more to talking about mental health than buying into the 'sad clown' trope. With a new mental health award announced this year – to be awarded to the show that best explores the subject of mental health – there's a sense that the stigma surrounding the topic is much less prevalent than ever before.

Across theatre, comedy and music, there are plenty of acts presenting mental health in a new light. While this is not an exclusive list, here are 20 shows at this year's Fringe that are putting mental health at the forefront.

A Robot in Human Skin
A solo theatre piece from Nicole Henriksen in her follow up to her debut, Makin' it Rain. In A Robot in Human Skin, Henriksen takes an uncompromising look at the way we both view and treat mental health.
A Robot in Human Skin, Underbelly Med Quad, 2–28 Aug (not 15), 8.30pm.

Brothers
Music mixes with physical theatre in the story of five housemates living together at university. 203 Theatre Company show how anxiety and depression can be triggered by uni life, and why talking about it is so important.
Brothers, Underbelly Med Quad, 2–28 Aug (not 16), 12.10pm.

Cognitions
A play that explores mental illness and family. In Cognitions, Joanna and her daughter Niamh live with the effects of bipolar disorder, and highlight how to work with co-dependency, relationships and living on your own.
Cognitions, Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 4–19 Aug, 6.40pm.

Find Your Neurotribe
Psychologist Matthias Schwannauer from the University of Edinburgh discusses how we categorise and classify mental illness, taking in societal and cultural anchor points.
Find Your Neurotribe, New Town Theatre, 16 & 25 Aug, 8.20pm.

Fine Thanks
A verbatim musical using the real words and thoughts about mental health from young people, taking them from the classroom to the stage in a new confessional performance.
Fine Thanks, C, 20–27 Aug, 3.35pm.

Jem Brookes: Pull Yourself Together
Jem missed the Fringe last year for the first time in seven years, due to experiencing a bad bout of depression. This year's show draws from this, portraying the condition in an unfiltered, funny way.
Jem Brookes: Pull Yourself Together, Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, 3–27 Aug, free.

Joanne McNally: Bite Me
Comedian Joanne McNally talks about what happened when she went on a diet that quickly turned into an eating disorder. Her experiences of being in a clinic are brought to life in a hilarious, but sensitive manner.
Joanne McNally: Bite Me, Assembly Roxy, 2–28 Aug (not 15), 6.20pm.

Jogging
Hanan Al-Haj from Lebanon presents a show about jogging to stave off anxiety, bone disease and obesity, exploring how her adrenaline highs and lows mirror the state of her home city.
Jogging, Summerhall, 15–23 Aug, 11.50am.

John Scott Delusions
John Scott's out to prove he's not the only one with delusions. After being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, then re-diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he's going to explain why he's probably more in control than what's going on in the world these days.
John Scott Delusions, Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 4–27 Aug (no 21), free.

Losing Days
This is not a sob story, warns the blurb on the Fringe website – Sam Underwood is taking us through the times when he's lost his mind, and then found it again, using the music that helped him get through to signpost his journey.
Losing Days, New Town Theatre, 3–27 Aug (not 15), 9.40pm.

Mental
Mental is a look at what happens when someone you love is experiencing mental health difficulties. Kane Power performs this solo show, melding music, storytelling and memories into a powerful story of one man and his mum.
Mental, Assembly Roxy, 2–27 Aug (not 14 & 21), 5.05pm.

Polaris
A solo spoken word show from Hannah Raymond-Cox, Polaris is a slam-style look at mental health, queer culture and how these all come crashing to the fore when you're living alone in London over Christmas time.
Polaris, 52 Canoes, 4–28 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 2.45pm.

Shell Shock
Tommy Atkins explores Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Shell Shock, a play detailing his experiences after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mixing the quotidian of civilian life with real wartime memories, Atkins presents a poignant piece about a disorder that isn't often discussed.
Shell Shock, Sweet Grassmarket, 12–27 Aug, 8pm.

Sofie Hagen: Dead Baby Frog
While Sofie Hagen is well-known for talking frankly about her mental health, this show is a special one, in that Hagen encourages the audience to see it as anxiety-safe. People can email her beforehand and she will do her best to make anxiety levels as low as possible.
Sofie Hagen: Dead Baby Frog, Bedlam Theatre, 2–28 Aug, 2pm.

Sometimes I Adult
A show trying to reclaim the notion of OCD being a serious disorder, rather than a synonym for 'a bit tidy'. Alice Sainsbury delves into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to show what it's really like living with it, and endeavours to get her OCD under control once and for all.
Sometimes I Adult, theSPACE @ Surgeons Hall, 14–26 Aug (not 20), 9.20pm.

Stegosaurus
A one-woman play by Ersi Niaoti taking a no-holds-barred look at eating disorders, body image and sexuality, through the experiences of a 30 year old woman who is still living with her parents and battling anorexia and bulimia.
Stegosaurus, C royale, 2–19 Aug, 2.45pm.

Stop
A new musical written with mental health charity SANE and French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg. A relatable look at mental health, the piece meets four Londoners and explores just how much you can learn about somebody from a transient meeting at a bus stop.
Stop, C south, 3–28 Aug (not 15), 2.45pm.

The Inconvenience of Wings
Multi-award winning playwright, director and author, Lara Foot, presents a play about a man whose wife is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Starring Andrew Buckland, the piece analyses dysfunction and addiction in a deeply powerful way.
The Inconvenience of Wings, Assembly George Square Studios, 3–27 Aug (not 14 & 21), 3.10pm.

Think
Mind Out Theatre are a collective aiming to challenge societal views and affect change. Their show, Think, presents five people living with different mental health issues and uses music and movement to tell their truths about anorexia and depression.
Think, Paradise in the Vault, 5–12 Aug, 5.15pm.

Wanna Dance with Somebody
Subtitled 'Or, a Guide to Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics', this show from Running Dog Theatre is a mix of dance class, school disco and physics lecture, exploring how to manage anxiety and work on coping mechanisms.
Wanna Dance with Somebody, Zoo Southside, 4–28 Aug (not 16), 9.30pm.

Sofie Hagen: Dead Baby Frog

  • 4 stars

Best Newcomer at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, Sofie Hagen has been charming the UK with her spot-on comedy ever since. This is her brand new show, which we hope won't actually contain any dead baby frogs.

Stop

Fishbowl Productions present the OUDS National Tour An everyman story about the very real and relatable world of mental illness. As you meet four Londoners, you will get to know their musical personalities, their senses of humour, and what they learn from the transient relationships they develop with each other in the…

Polaris

Hannah Raymond-Cox / PBH’s Free Fringe What happens when you’re in London alone at Christmas for years on end? PBH Free Fringe's Polaris explores one woman’s search for community in the face of chaos through spoken word. At times wry, heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Hannah Raymond-Cox’s award-winning slam style…

Cognitions

SpeakUp Theatre 'I have them too. Faulty cognitions.' This newly devised piece examines the effect of bipolar disorder on family life, as Joanna and her daughter Niamh face every challenge together. A play about co-dependency, relationships and learning to be OK on your own. A sell out show selected by NSDF. Age…

Brothers

203 Theatre The winners of the Derek Award's Best Overall Show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 return with another fast-paced and thought provoking production. With aspects of their five-star signature blend of music and physical-theatre, 203 tackle another poignant and topical subject – understanding and coping…

Stegosaurus

  • 3 stars

ES Productions A journey through black coffee, exposed bones and copies of Vogue, Stegasaurus explores our relationship with food, societal attitudes towards body image and sexuality and the many myths about eating disorders as they are perpetuated by Hollywood. A truthful depiction of a young woman’s struggle to be…

Think

Mind Out Theatre Nutcases can’t be friends with nutcases. Unapologetically hard-hitting yet funny, Think tells the story of a young man, Jay, suffering from severe Anorexia Nervosa. When he is admitted to an inpatient mental health unit, his life is turned upside down as he meets Molly who battles with Bipolar…

Jem Brookes: Pull Yourself Together

Jem Brookes / Free Festival Last year I was experiencing some of the worst depression I have had in over 20 years, so much so that I didn't come to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time in seven years. Now, I'm back with a show that looks at a lifetime dealing with this illness, its causes and effects on my life, and…

Mental

Kane Power Theatre 'This heart-wrenching story both educates and entertains, leaving you more aware of the world around you' ★★★★★ (TheEdgeSusu.co.uk). 'deeply moving' ★★★★★ (TheSpyInTheStalls.com). At a time when mental health is increasingly making the headlines, yet still so many are unable to speak about their…

Losing Days

Initiative 26 / Salt 'n' Sauce Promotions Sam Underwood (Fear The Walking Dead, The Following) is mostly manic, and definitely depressed! Losing Days follows his hilarious and harrowing journey of losing his f*cking mind – and finding it again – set to the tunes that got him through. Featuring live music from Frank…

Wanna Dance With Somebody! Or, A Guide To Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics

  • 3 stars

Running Dog Theatre Josh is good at dancing, but not at people. Is the hokey cokey really what it’s all about? Josh doesn’t know, but he’s damn well going to find out. A new show about social anxiety, about coping mechanisms, about big ideas and how they impact on small things. About taking chances. And about dancing.

A Robot in Human Skin

  • 4 stars

Nicole Henriksen Award-nominated performer Nicole Henriksen presents the follow-up to her critically acclaimed theatre debut. Henriksen is known for tackling difficult subjects, and A Robot in Human Skin is no exception. This second one-person theatre show is a fresh, truthful, and heartfelt look at mental health and…

Joanne McNally: Bite Me

Lisa Richards Joanne was on an amazing diet and that was brilliant until it landed her in a clinic with a load of people who had lost their minds, which was ridiculous because Joanne definitely still had hers. Turns out her mind had legged it years ago; luring it back becomes the hardest, funniest and weirdest time of…

Shell Shock

Smokescreen Productions Shell Shock is a stunning personal realisation of one soldier’s experience of learning to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tommy Atkins' observations on the absurdities of everyday life on civvy street are frequently comic, occasionally absurd…

Fine, Thanks

LUND Every given year one in four people will experience a very serious diagnosable mental illness – if it’s not you it’s a mate. Right now three children in every classroom suffer from a mental health condition: the epidemic thought about but not talked about. Using the real words of young people this verbatim musical…

John Scott Delusions

Political comedy from John Scott.

The Inconvenience of Wings

Baxter Theatre Centre at the University of Cape Town For anyone who has suffered mental illness themselves, or has lived with someone who is afflicted, this piece will cut close to the bone. Triple Fringe First winner Andrew Buckland stars in Lara Foot's powerful and poignant drama about friendship, dysfunction…

Jogging

Hanane Hajj Ali A 60-minute theatre performance: Hanan Al-Haj, a woman in her 50s and a Lebanese citizen, follows her daily routine of jogging to keep herself safe from obesity, bone diseases and anxiety. This routine helps create a connection between her intimate personal space and the general space of the city…

Sometimes I Adult

Fridge Magnet Alice’s clinically diagnosed OCD keeps her slim, out of debt and germ free! But the rituals holding her together might just break her apart. Can she lose her OCD and finally start to adult all by herself? Can she even make it through the show without having to wash her hands?! Age category: 16+

Find Your Neurotribe!

Fair Pley / Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions If mental illness is largely defined by a deviation from a norm, where does that leave us? Psychologist Matthias Schwannauer (University of Edinburgh) has looked at the history of mental disorder and found examples of madness that are genuinely seen as incredulous, shocking and…

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