A Gala for Mental Health, now in its fourth year at the Pleasance Dome, has already raised thousands of pounds for a good cause, while establishing itself as one of the most distinctive, ahead of the curve shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. For the past two years, acts performing at the Gala have gone on to win the Edinburgh Comedy Award - Richard Gadd in 2016 and Hannah Gadsby in 2017. Another of last year’s performers, Robert White, is now a household name thanks to his appearances on Britain’s Got Talent. The Gala’s first year, 2015, featured Bryony Kimmings, whose show Fake It Til You Make It went on to sell out its entire Fringe run within days, one of a wave of high profile mental health themed shows at that year’s Fringe. Two of the most successful of these, Felicity Ward and Le Gateau Chocolat, also featured in that year’s Gala, alongside an unannounced, surprise appearance from Paul Merton (joining a cast of Impro Chums led by Mike McShane, who wanted to pay tribute to his late friend Robin Williams).
A Gala For Mental Health notably consists entirely of performers who can talk about mental health from their own lived experience – and who are often addressing mental health in their own shows at the Fringe. This year’s line-up – its biggest to date - includes Australian cabaret diva Yana Alana, whose show Between the Cracks sees her irreverently and hilariously exploring her own mental health struggles; Adele Anderson of Fascinating Aida fame, whose new solo show consists of “songs for disappointment, depression and death”; and comedians Laura Lexx and Matt Price, whose shows this year both conjure inspired comedy from difficult and very personal life experiences. The Mental Health Foundation is also delighted that this year’s Gala will include an improv set by the brilliant Whose Line Is It Anyway star Tony Slattery, whose candid description of living with bipolar disorder was one of the most memorable and moving moments in his friend Stephen Fry’s acclaimed documentary on the subject, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Slattery is making a full Fringe comeback this year with his own show, after some guest slots in 2017.
The evening is hosted by Felicity Ward, whose last two Fringe shows, What If There Is No Toilet and 50% More Likely To Die, were hilariously honest, self-deprecating accounts of living with anxiety and depression. Felicity previously hosted the Gala in 2015 and 2016, before taking a break from the Fringe in 2017.
Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts lead for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Mental health has been a major theme at the Fringe for four years now – in large part due to the influence of performers like Felicity Ward and Bryony Kimmings. It’s great that more performers are willing to address this subject; mental health is something everyone should feel able to talk about openly without shame or fear of discrimination or other negative consequences. Our gala shows are about empathy, solidarity, self-expression and raising awareness as much as they are about raising money for charity. They have a unique atmosphere – and a unique bond between performers and audience - because of that. We are delighted with this year’s line-up, our biggest yet, and incredibly grateful to all the performers for giving us their time. It’s going to be a terrific show and we hope lots of people will be there to enjoy it!”
Tickets are priced £10 and are available now via the Pleasance box office on 0131-556 6550, or online here. Proceeds from the show will go to the Mental Health Foundation.