All Of Me is the headline show at this year's Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. Winner of the Mental Health Fringe Award in 2019, it is finally on tour across the UK and will be showing at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow with SMHAF this Thursday to Saturday.
Written and performed by Olivier Award nominee Caroline Horton, it is an intimate and absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark. Grudgingly hopeful, occasionally funny, Caroline reunites with director Alex Swift (Mess) to bring you an unapologetically dark show about dark things.
Caroline spoke to us ahead of the show coming to Glasgow this week.
How are you feeling about being back in front of audiences after two years of lockdown?
It’s amazing. I feel very grateful to be finally touring this show that we opened in 2019. And I’d really missed performing.
I mean, my relationship with the show has definitely shifted because how could it not have? Because the world has changed and also my small world has changed because I had a kid last year.
All of Me had a hugely positive response in 2019. Have there been particular reactions that have stayed with you?
I was surprised in a way that this dark, strange, sad (occasionally also funny btw) and extremely personal show had such a positive response when we opened in Edinburgh. I think I expected it to be more marmite.
And personally, some artists I really really admire came to see it in Edinburgh and loved it which meant an enormous amount. Also I remember when Holly Williams’ 5 star review in The Independent came out - I think it was our first review - and I was so glad it had been deeply understood in the way I’d wanted it to be.
More recently a couple of people have come to see it and then come again two weeks later which feels like the biggest compliment.
Sometimes when people close to me see it they feel worried so that can be complicated but I am actually very safe within the shape of the show.
One of the most powerful things about All of Me is its refusal to provide a hopeful or reassuring resolution to a story about living with depression - the show even begins with a series of apologies about how bleak it's going to be. Can you talk a bit about why you took that approach? You did something similar in Mess.
It just feels true - since making Mess ten years ago - I have been really really keen to complicate the ideas around recovery, especially in relation to mental health. And I believe it more the older I get that I can hold a big darkness and a big light at the same time and that that is ok.
How do you look after your mental health while performing a show like this?
Since 2013 I have worked with an Artist Wellbeing Practitioner - Lou Platt - she is available to the team during the making and then when touring work. She provides a space to help contain anything that’s feeling hard - and often helps open up the material too - it feels like a cross between therapy and dramaturgy.
The past few years have seen a conspicuous increase in the number of theatre shows in which artists explicitly address their own mental health; our 2019 Mental Health Fringe Award shortlist also featured powerful, sometimes harrowing work by Bryony Kimmings and Richard Gadd. How do you feel about this development?
I think these stories help people feel less alone as well as being great pieces of art. And slowly our collective shame is diminished. It’s just human experience after all.
Do you feel differently about this show after two years away from it - two years which have presented all kinds of new challenges to everyone's mental health? Do you think you would have made it differently now?
Yeah like I said before, the wider world’s changed and my world’s changed so yes, it’d be different I’m sure, but when me and the director, Alex Swift, came back to it in January this year, it still made sense to us and moved us and so on. We decided to acknowledge that it was made pre-pandemic in the opening - and that I am renegotiating my relationship with the show now in 2022. But the show was always built from cast off versions of itself as my mental health waxed and waned during the making process, so that idea of returning to it and shifting my relationship with it was already built in.
Lockdown has made a lot of people reassess the way they live and work. How has it been for you?
Having a kid has changed things of course but I was already working more from home because of the pandemic. I’m glad that now I'm mixing up the writing and Zoom work with in person and performance work again - I like the mix. I’ve also gone back to studying - restarting my psychotherapy training - which I am loving although it’s a long journey.
What are you doing next?
I’m slowly slowly making a show about motherhood whilst working on other people’s projects mainly either as a director or writer. I do more and more mentoring work with artists too, which I really love.
All Of Me is showing at the Tron Theate, Glasgow from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 May at 7.30pm. Tickets are £19 / £16 / £14.50. Book at tron.co.uk/shows/all-of-me or call the box office on 0141 552 4267.
Image Credit: Ed Collier