The shortlist for this year’s Mental Health Fringe Award has been announced, with seven Edinburgh Fringe shows selected.
Now in its third year, the Mental Health Fringe Award is presented by the Mental Health Foundation and recognises the Edinburgh Fringe show that most compellingly explores the subject of mental health. The award is supported by the Tron Theatre and the Scotsman newspaper and is presented at the annual Scotsman Fringe Awards on the final Friday of the festival.
The winner of the award – to be announced tomorrow - will be invited to return to Scotland in May 2020 as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF), in partnership with the Tron Theatre’s Mayfesto programme.
This year seven shows have been shortlisted, across four venues:
All Of Me (Summerhall)
An uncompromising and unforgettable portrayal of living with depression, Caroline Horton’s show uses mythological storytelling to take her audience on a vivid journey into the ‘underworld’ of mental illness.
A Short Cut to Happiness (Zoo Playground)
A motivational speaker who wants to ‘cancel depression’ has to face up to the memory of traumatic experience from her teenage years, in Emilie Hetland’s poignant – and often very funny – one-woman show.
Baby Reindeer (Summerhall)
Richard Gadd’s powerful debut play builds on his Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning show Monkey See Monkey Do with a brutally honest exploration of multiple traumas, as he shares the story of how the legacy of a sexually assault contributed to a destructive relationship with a stalker.
I’m a Phoenix, Bitch (Pleasance)
After confronting her partner’s depression in the acclaimed Fake It ‘Til You Make It, Bryony Kimmings now tells the story of her own breakdown after their relationship floundered and their baby son became critically ill, in her bravest and most theatrically ambitious show to date.
Life Is No Laughing Matter (Summerhall)
In one of the warmest, funniest shows about depression at this year’s Fringe, Demi Nandhra finds solace in her partner and her dog - both of whom are on stage with her – while highlighting some of the issues associated with being a woman of colour living with mental health.
‘My mind turns to mustard’ is the repeated refrain in Eva O’Connor’s richly evocative, beautifully performed monologue about a young Irish woman falling in love, having her heart broken, and retreating into a rare form of self-harm.
SK Shlomo: Surrender (Underbelly)
SK Shlomo is a successful beatboxer who has performed with Damon Albarn, Lily Allen and Jarvis Cocker, but when he took time out two years ago to make his own album he instead sank into depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD relating to unresolved childhood trauma. Surrender is a brave, candid show in which he opens up about that experience while demonstrating the extraordinary skills that made him successful in the first place.
The shortlist was chosen by a judging panel consisting of Andrew Eaton-Lewis (arts lead, Mental Health Foundation, and Edinburgh festivals editor, The Scotsman), Andy Arnold (director, Tron Theatre), Yasmin Sulaiman (writer, former director of Creative Edinburgh, and former editor of The List), Tim Cornwell (arts journalist and Scotsman critic) and Linda Irvine-Fitzpatrick (strategic programme manager, NHS Lothian)
Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “Over the past few years, mental health has become a consistent theme at the Edinburgh Fringe, as a wider variety of artists, from comedians to playwrights to cabaret performers, have created an ever wider range of work exploring the subject. This award was set up both to recognise that and to encourage and support the creation of more new work.
“This shortlist represents some of the most dynamic, engaging, moving and profound new artistic work about mental health at this year’s festival, both from people we have had the pleasure of working with before, like Richard Gadd and Bryony Kimmings, to exciting new names like Eva O’Connor and Emilie Hetland. These shows play an important role in challenging stigma, asking difficult questions, and starting new conversations about mental health. All of them deserve your attention.”
James Meteyard, writer of Electrolyte, last year’s award-winner, said: “Mental health is an extremely important subject to be raising awareness around and theatre is a fantastic form to be able to bring new perspectives to the conversation. However it is also a sensitive subject and creating a show tackling the themes was extremely personal and quite daunting as you don't know how it will be received. So winning the Mental Health Fringe Award was a real honour as it showed us that this is a story that needs to be told. This recognition played a part in galvanising us to take this story further and so we partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to embark on a ten-week tour with an outreach programme attached exploring creativity as way of promoting better mental health. As part of this tour we performed at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, an incredible experience which we wouldn't have had the privilege of without winning this award.”