Forever Manchester have teamed up with the sponsors of our Community Pages, Express Solicitors, who will be sending members of their team out to meet with, and compile stories about, the amazing projects that have been supported by Forever Manchester. So, without further ado, it’s over to them…
Brought together by virtue of their personal mental health experiences, Theatre of the Senses look to focus on combining these experiences with positive ways of staying well. Theatre of the Senses was set up to give people the opportunity to express themselves in a safe setting through dance, drama and music. The group place an emphasis on the idea of multi-sensory performance. For example, in their adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk, the audience were given beans to break and smell. The group was formed in 2012 and they have performed three major productions for local communities, along with a number of minor projects in between.
Though a small group, they are proud of the work that they have done so far and hope to be able to expand and help more people in the future. They currently have 30 members and of the 30 people none have returned to hospital and two members have been able to take up full time employment and reduce their medication. While the focus of the meetings is not the various mental illnesses of its members, the fact that they have been able to help in this way by simply providing a communal place to explore creativity is one that they are very proud of and hope to promote further.
Tina, a volunteer, has first-hand experience of bipolar disorder and joined around a year ago after hearing about it through a friend. She likes the social aspect of the group and feels that it has helped to build her confidence: “People look at what I can do instead of what’s wrong with me, which is totally different and being here has been the best treatment. I think it’s just because you’re not labelled or judged… I have been so well since starting. I really like the fact that we get our own voice here. It is not somebody telling us this is what mental health is.”
Sid, the group’s Volunteer Creative Director, told us that the funding received from Forever Manchester has been of incredible value as they are not restricted in where the money is spent. The group have invested in simple, effective and easily adaptable costumes which can be used time and again. This has helped the group to bring the performances to life and to get to grips with their roles. In particular, the range of masks they have purchased give them not only a way of creating multiple characters for one cast member, but they also bring a newfound confidence for group members who may not otherwise be as self-assured. They also aim to be environmentally friendly and use products in a sustainable way. While costumes seem like an obvious necessity, this is an aspect that they had previously struggled to find funding for and are extremely grateful that Forever Manchester has allowed them to invest in their projects in this way.
The play currently being rehearsed has been written by the group; it is set in the future on a ship named The Vespasia. The play focuses on the ship’s crew fighting The Phobias and throughout the course of the play all crew members begin to face some form of psychosis. The Captain of the ship oversees this decline and the audience are taken on the Captain’s journey as he tries to hold things together. The script was based on the members’ personal mental health experiences. The performance will be taken into schools in the local community and is intended to deal with issues involving alcohol and drug misuse as well as mental health, and to portray positive ways of looking at and handling these issues.