Written by A J Taudevin
Directed by Clare Duffy
The word hysteria originates from the Ancient Greek word for uterus, hystéra, and was used for thousands of years to describe a ‘disease’ that only inflicted women, initially thought to have been caused by a ‘wandering womb’. The symptoms included anxiety, irritability, emotional outbursts and sexually forward behaviour.
Jeez, commit me now!
Fortunately, it is an out-dated term no longer used in psychiatry. However the stigma still lingers, and we women are constantly fighting the notion that we’re all emotional, crazy, hysterical…
Hysteria! attempts to tackle these issues by speaking powerful truths in an emotionally satisfying and entertaining way, and with a song and dance in its heart.
The self-described political cabaret takes a hard look at the world today, with a focus on sexual politics and mental health issues. It explores how women are still objectified, even when they are supposed to be respected political leaders, how a man who openly embodies this objectification is now in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world, and what effect this is having on society as we know it.
It is a heavy piece, there is no doubt, but it is a significant one that is positively essential right now. And the overall message is that we can and should stand up for ourselves, let it out, and invoke change. Womanpower!
Interestingly, it does not have an all-female cast, as one might expect. The decision to cast George Drennan alongside Annie Grace (both The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart), and Maryam Hamidi (The Chronicles of Irania), was an effective one, as it brings a certain energy to the show that it might not have otherwise had. At times it is amusing to hear Drennan speak as if he, too, were a woman, however at other times it can feel uncomfortable, when he speaks of issues such as rape.
Maryam Hamidi’s choreography is fun, lively and well synchronised, and Anna Porubcansky’s musical direction of the memorable tunes, carried by the talented singers, and even the occasional rap (in Scottish!) is glorious. All of this intertwined with musical instruments, spoken word and audience participation, makes for a decidedly satisfying theatre experience.
It ends perfectly, with a rendition of (I Can’t Keep) Quiet by Milck, presumably inspired by the flashmobs at the women’s marches earlier this year. Lyric sheets are provided, encouraging the audience to join in, and I doubt I was the only one who had tears streaming down her face during the highly poignant song.
Overall director Clare Duffy succeeds in tying together a witty and bold theatre experience, one which causes the audience to think deeply about the issues of sexism that plague politics and society, and the adverse effect it has on mental health.
If you, like me, suffer your own silent journey of dealing with mental health, I urge you to go see Hysteria! and feel inspired to let it out.
by Jo Osborne
Book now for Hysteria!, running at A Play A Pie & A Pint at Òran Mór, Glasgow until Sat 14 Oct, before moving to the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 17-21 Oct. All shows from 1-2pm, with an additional show on Fri 20 Oct from 7-8pm. All tickets include a pie and a drink.
Becoming Cary Grant is a beautiful title for an inside Hollywood documentary. It suggests that the person who ultimately became Cary Grant really did need to become him, for the same reason that anyone else would. Namely, that Cary Grant wasn’t quite of planet earth, he was larger than life. But in fact, he was born in 1904 as Archie Leach, a child from a modest background in Bristol, England.
David Thomson, a film critic who speaks throughout the film as an expert on Grant, suggests that the actor could never be placed as being from the UK nor the USA, but rather as a one off unique individual. Even his accent, so utterly distinctive, was unplaceable. The film quotes Grant as saying: ‘Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant’ – which tells you what a remarkable achievement his persona was. It shows him as the classical Hollywood leading man, with A list appeal. As an actor myself, I was excited by the opportunity to gain an insight from this film, as people’s perceptions of acting can be very different from the reality.
Becoming Cary Grant draws on the actor’s unpublished memoir, using his own words, thoughts and feelings, voiced by Jonathan Pryce. And it is using this technique that Kidel discusses Grant’s experiments with LSD in the 1950s. When you first hear that Grant took LSD, the fact stands in such dramatic contrast to his impeccable image – with not a hair out of place. It suggests he had a wild side, that his on-screen persona might have merely been a cover.
However, Grant’s LSD experiences were part of a rigorously supervised experiment in cutting edge psychotherapy in southern California. Grant would take a tab once a week in his therapist’s office, lie on the couch with a cover over him, and hallucinate his way to his subconscious self. He picked his favourite music and lay down for five hours. He found the experience to be frightening, liberating, but ultimately healing, showing how valuable therapy and talking and exploring thoughts and feelings is for mental health, wellbeing and psychotherapy.
The film also traces Grant’s development as an actor, from when he seemed to have no idea what he was doing, to his experiences on the set of The Awful Truth (1937) – where director Leo McCarey used his own persona as a ladies’ man to bring out the essence of the Cary Grant we know today – to his performance in Bringing Up Baby (1938), where Howard Hawks recognised the universal appeal of Grant’s personality. Although it doesn’t explore His Girl Friday (1940), the comedy that saw Grant reach his perfection as a leading man, it is spot-on in recognising that the films he made with Alfred Hitchcock – Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959) – were the making of him as an actor. Hitchcock cast him as a murderer in Suspicion, showing his range as an actor, while, in, Notorious, Grant’s crisp ardour was shot through with haunted longing.
Becoming Cary Grant argues that the emotions he explores in these roles, to some degree, brought him closer to the “real” Cary Grant. But over and above that, it reveals that he was even more of an actor – both in life and in the movies – than we might otherwise have thought. Explorations into his difficult childhood and relationships with his mother and father show the extent to which adversity played a prominent role in helping him become one of Hollywood’s most successful and talented stars – and an actor that is still admired to this day.
Placing the emphasis on Grant’s therapy also shows how important it is for people to talk about their feelings, no matter what their situation. At one point, he says: ‘If I had paid more attention I might have found contentment in marriage’, an insight that is all the sadder when considered alongside his high-profile struggles with women and love. Living in an era when men sadly did not talk about emotional issues, Grant eventually found relief in his chosen form of therapy – whether we agree with it or not.
Becoming Cary Grant may inspire a new generation of young actors to seek fame and fortune, but it can be hoped that it will encourage men to seek mental health support when they have issues they need to talk about. Later in life, the film shows that Grant is healed through having a daughter of his own to love and care for, something that helped him grow and develop emotionally. Ultimately, it strikes the balance between showcasing his great success, and giving an honest account of who he truly was – or became – in his own words.
by Shirley Hellyar
Shirley is a writer, actor and model, currently writing her first screenplay, and acting as full-time carer for her disabled dad. She has dyslexia, anxiety and depression. She wants to show that with the right help and support anything is possible, and being honest about mental health difficulties is so important in reclaiming who you are.
Book now for Becoming Cary Grant, showing as part of Men's Mental Health Day at CCA, Glasgow on Sat 14 Oct at 7.30pm. Director Mark Kidel will be in attendance to take part in a Q&A discussion after the screening. Winner of Best Feature Documentary in our International Film Competition.
The Dutch Gable House is a small but beautifully fascinating treasure at the heart of Greenock. I’ve visited many times and never wanted to escape! However, people are now being invited to attempt exactly that at the museum’s Escape Room Experience, developed for SMHAF 2017 by Trust Volunteering’s Catriona MacLeod and Valerie Campbell, along with a team of volunteers.
The event is based around the historical scenario of people wishing to emigrate from Greenock to Nova Scotia, but finding themselves trapped within the room. Due to its size, it seems hard to imagine it would take anyone as much as 60 minutes to escape the town’s oldest building. Yet, to do so, participants must first work together to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to find the various items necessary to escape to Canada.
The Escape Room Experience – which has already been trialled successfully at the Dutch Gable House earlier this month – will provide a thrilling adventure for those who dare to try and beat the clock!
This free event is being offered to both individuals and organisations. Three sessions take place daily on Tue 17 & Wed 18 Oct. Booking is required, and any donations will be given to the Mental Health Foundation.
by Mark Jones
It was snowing the day my brother died. The world was silent. The air thick with fading memories that drifted upwards – cruelly inverting the brittle flakes braiding downwards.
We are told grief is a journey. Each year that passes marks another step towards the goal of being less entrenched in sadness. Yet each year, the snow returns and brings with it that silence.
My understanding of grief is deeply connected to my relationship with nature. This is something I found myself reflecting on when watching the Vivian, Vivian and Waterfall, screening together at this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.
Vivian, Vivian is a striking film poem written and directed by Ingrid Kamerling. It journeys from clouded, mesmerising dreamscapes to the urban arena of nighttime Utrecht. In doing so it maps the previously untouched path laid by the suicide of Kamerling’s sister. At its core, this film is about a woman’s journey through grief.
However, when watching it I kept thinking about the ways in which memory and setting become intertwined. As archive footage of Kamerling’s sister transitions into stilled waterways and then back to urban hinterlands, it is clear than even these apparent journeys into understanding are punctuated and confused by the jolts of human memory. What we’re presented with is a series of the filmmaker’s emotional coordinates.
At the film’s climax, the mental state of its subject is described as a ‘maelstrom’, a naturally occurring but violent whirlpool. Its appearance disrupts the journey, giving new meaning to the repeated use of water imagery throughout. This is not a straightforward narrative. Grief is never straightforward.
While Vivian, Vivian takes the viewer on a journey into the whirlpools of grief, Waterfall plunges us deep into its mires. Winner of Best Experimental Film at this year’s festival, Tom Lock Griffiths’s journey through the landscapes of loss reiterates the central theme of Vivian, Vivian, as the filmmaker attempts to understand his own mother’s suicide.
Reflecting on the ways in which landscape holds memory, the film offers the illusion of sequence, punctuated by the narrator’s use of numerical titles for each segment. However, this is merely an illusion, and the film focuses on a scattering of meaningful sites and memories. By ‘listening’ to the world around him, Griffiths delves deep into the archeology of his own loss, offering a poignant alternative to traditional linear journeys through grief.
A trickle of water outside a London flat takes us to a reservoir in Wales, built only on the purposeful destruction and clearing of two villages. A walk with an old girlfriend allows us to think for a moment about an archaic landscape of timber walkways and remnant footprints. Landscapes absorb these moments in time and lay them bare.
Towards the film’s conclusion, Griffiths dwells for a moment on the ‘vast psychological landscapes’ of the human brain. The temporally conflicted landscapes on screen are now only projections of human synapses. Memory is not linear, but reveals itself to us in the conflicts between place and time.
The landscapes of my own grief are snow-covered and silent. Snow melts and becomes water. Water evaporates and is recycled into rain. Rain falls on our cities. For anybody who’s ever experienced grief, this seems a much more poignant metaphor than that of a journey. The cyclical process echo the ways in which memories recede, return and recede again in ways we cannot control. But I find great comfort in this. Watching these films is a reminder to return to places where memories dwell.
by Kirsty Strang-Roy
At rise, four men lie on the stage. Sleeping, resting, relaxed, peaceful. One Mississippi holds this calm for several minutes at its start before they cycle quickly into speech, beginning their stories, of their upbringings and their tribulations. The pace does not let up from there, making for a dynamic, unforgettable and surprisingly funny show.
Drawn from interviews with men across Scotland, Mariem Omari, writer and co-director of Bijli Productions, has created four distinctive voices discussing how they got to the present points in their lives. They come from different backgrounds yet each of them have so much in common: fear of alcoholic fathers, pressure from parents, ostracising by peers, unable to shake their otherness or their perceived faults. The consequences of these being anxiety, self-harming, drug abuse. Some of these experiences are harrowing but it is testament to the men themselves that so much of it is also funny. That humour is indicative of a self-awareness that has been hard fought for, and the four actors embody it brilliantly.
No costume changes, no props - bar a piece of chalk that marks the floor with signs and symbols from the stories - but a rotating cast of supporting, and not-so-supporting, characters are brought to life by the cast of four. They run circles round each other, dance, mirror their parents and abusers and lovers. It is credit to the actors and director, co-director of Bijli Productions, Umar Ahmed, that the physicality of the show is, at times, breathtaking but doesn’t veer into something too slick or over choreographed, making for an immediate and visceral experience.
The structure is bold and does not offer any easy solutions to the specific challenges facing men’s mental health but it is not without hope, clearly laying out its character’s desires, obstacles and frustrations. Not an easy watch but definitely rewarding, One Mississippi is a must-see portrait of contemporary masculinity in Scotland.
by Emily Benita
Talking Heads reporter Emily Benita is a writer and performer who lives in Glasgow with her cat called Malcolm Tucker. She manages her depression and anxiety through a combination of medication, counselling and art, liberally applied. Tweets at @BenitaEmily.
Book now for One Mississippi, showing at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Thu 12 Oct, before moving to the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow on 13-14 Oct.