Kicking off SMHAFF as part of the ‘Moving Minds’ event on October 1st, Cultured Mongrel Dance Theatre present two intriguing hip-hop theatre pieces: Status Anxiety and Thinking In the First Person, which challenge the way social media has changed our lives. 

If you think you know theatre then think again. The art reinvents itself in a new and profound way that uses dance as a means of storytelling. Initially, it is perplexing if you’ve never witnessed hip-hop theatre in action, but your eyes will be forced to follow. Brimming with energy and dynamic ideas, Status Anxiety and Thinking in the First Person are provocative and exciting pieces of theatre.

Company leader Emma Jayne Park tells me:

“When devising something we always kind of say the piece is in the room; it’s just about finding it. I’m very keen on building a company process and a company way of being so that the company is not just known for it’s work but people know the energy that we bring to stuff we do. We’re always looking for people to join us and for people to join the ethos as well.”

Thinking In The First Person is a ‘dark reflection on how social media can fracture our sense of identity’ says Emma from ‘Cultured Mongrels’, the theatre company behind the show. At this years festival the group also present Status Anxiety, which Emma brands as a ‘tongue in cheek look at the characters we become when presenting ourselves online.’

Mental health is not only about those with mental health problems but each and every one of us. It’s about how we treat our minds, and how we let the outside world affect and shape us. Both pieces capture this in a seemingly abstract way.In Thinking In The First Person, a bare set is brought to life by four dancing shadows that strip down to white vests, perhaps representing a sense of confusion or literal stripping of identity.

Meanwhile, Status Anxiety is a mockingly light-hearted version of today’s social media personalities and how we are shaped or un-shaped by our online personas.  Like any form of art though, the interpretations are endless and we might not all take the same story or meaning from it.

But isn’t that the point? Status Anxiety, Thinking In The First Person and new innovative art forms like it are successfully helping to challenge our ideas and our preconceptions of mental health in society. This year’s theme is power; it’s about the power to challenge and the power to make change. And by taking more notice of shows like this and the messages behind them, we can all do just that.


Written by Carmela Caserta