“Why should mental illness be marked with a badge of shame? An illness that has ravaged my life.”
I hope that revealing my true-life struggle to appear normal when the world inside me is falling apart, as mental illness becomes my reality and the stigma marks me with a badge of shame, will help people to understand this invisible illness.
Moment(o)s is a brand new autobiographical piece, devised completely from my own diaries. This piece moves on from last year’s Moment(o)s of Leaving; a site specific, multimedia production at Whitchurch Mental Hospital before it closed its doors. Both of my parents spent time in Whitchurch, and my life has been truly intertwined with the institution.
This story could be anyone’s, it just happens to be mine. Four generations of my family have been affected by the fallout from mental health disasters. As far as I know, there have been six confirmed suicide attempts in my family, and goodness knows how many more unconfirmed. Four have been successful. Fortunately, mine wasn’t one of them. That is why I am passionate about breaking the stigma that still surrounds being mentally ill.
Since the original research and development piece with Whitchurch Hospital Historical Society, I have kept developing ways of representing what it’s like to be mentally unwell, from the inside perspective. I’ve performed a solo piece at the Mental Health Arts Festival, and carried out installations of personal momentos and that of Whitchurch Hospital.
My process of working as a conceptual director is that of collaboration, preferring to work in a collective, drawing in practitioners from all aspects of the arts and working alongside community groups. ‘Moment(o)s’ will see me, along with Gareth Clark and Marega Palser, and the rest of the creative team, take a step further into my own life to tear open the world of being mentally unwell. It is this process that has led to the creation of ‘Moment(o)s’.
To express the rollercoaster of being mentally unwell, we’ve used Cabaret and dance, and explored ways of physically expressing mental illness which are often hidden away; invisible to the outside eye and veiled in shame and stigma. Much of the content for both the previous production, and Moment(o)s, is based on material from my diaries.
Elaine Paton is a Welsh theatre director, writer and performer. Her new autobiographical production, Moment(o)s comes to Chapter, Cardiff next week from 27th June – 1st July.
Devised by Elaine Paton and the Creative Team
Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July, 7.30pm
Tickets: £12/£10 (day time installation is free)
Age 14+ (guidance)
Performed by Elaine Paton, Gareth Clark and Marega Palser.
There will be a free installation depicting the inner word of being mentally unwell. Featuring film, audio, moment(o)s from Whitchurch Mental Hospital and items from Elaine’s life – including her diaries.
The installation will be 10am-5pm each day followed by performances at 7.30pm.
BSL interpreted performance with Antony Evans: Thursday 29th June, 7.30pm
Audio Described performance and pre-show touch tour with Alastair Sill (Word of Mouth): Saturday 1st July, 7.30pm