20 Fringe shows talking about mental health
- Kirstyn Smith
- 18 July 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.