Amy Conway's new theatre show, Super Awesome World, uses computer games to talk about living with depression. Amy will discuss the project at SMHAFF @ Home Away on Sunday 9 October, as well as presenting a work in progress version of the show at CCA on World Mental Health Day on Monday 10 October.
Can you tell us a bit about Super Awesome World?
The idea came from a TED talk from games designer, Jane McGonigal. She talked about how she had suffered from chronic concussion after an accident and was experiencing intolerable pain on a daily basis and making no discernible improvement. She was suicidal by the time she decided that she could either end her life or make getting better into a game. She realised that if she set herself small achievable goals each day and got her friends and family involved in helping her on her quest, life was not only bearable but she was actually making real progress towards good health. She ended up making an online game called Super Better based on her experiences and designed for anyone with finding it difficult to see light in the darkness.
I was struggling with depression at the time, and still struggle with my mental health more intermittently these days, and I'd read so much about various treatments and personal accounts but treating depression with a game was something positive and different and I was willing to give anything a try. Plus I love games! So the idea for the show grew from there.
How much does it relate to your own experience of depression?
The show is autobiographical so it is as personal as it gets! Depression is so lonely and isolating I think because you just can't imagine anyone feeling the same way or being able to understand what you're going through. But once I was able to talk about it with the people closest to me and then later more openly with my wider community, I came to realise that I was far from alone in my experience. I can only speak with absolute authority about my own experience but my hope is that my story will resonate with the many who have had depression, are living with depression or have ever struggled with their mental health.
Why is it important to you to explore this subject?
Because we still live in a society where people are afraid to talk about mental health! When you have the flu you don't feel the need to hide the fact that you are unwell. Until we can talk about having depression like it is any other illness, that is, one that anyone can get, until there is no judgement or blame put on those that are in its grip, then we still have a lot of work to do.
And when you look at the rates of suicide amongst young people in particular then it is clear that the language of mental health is not yet part of our vocabulary, and we need to urgently address that - on an educational level and on a wider societal level.
What can audiences expect from your 'work in progress' performance at SMHAFF?
They can expect a show that is full of surprises. Hopefully a show that entertains. When I set out to talk about depression through video games, I wanted to inject the same feeling of fun and adventure I felt playing Nintendo as a kid.
There will be some participation, but nothing too scary. I want people to enjoy themselves as well as being affected by the material. So it hopefully won't be too... depressing.
What do you hope to get out of sharing this version of the show?
This is a show that's not finished yet. We're still testing ideas and seeing what fits, so we'll be looking for some constructive feedback, a chance to gauge the success of the gaming elements and a general sense of how well the central conceit is coming across.
This will be a fairly stripped back version of the show, it's an opportunity to get the story right without all the other production elements to distract us.
Book tickets for Super Awesome World here.