INTERVIEW: Declaration writer/director Rachel Moorhouse

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Declaration examines the faces we wear to fit in and what happens when we are forced to declare our differences.  Developed in consultation with medical professionals, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and mental health support groups, Declaration challenges stereotypes with a curious, comic and candid look at ADHD, mental health and diagnosis in the 21st century.

Here’s an exclusive interview with writer and director, Rachel Moorhouse:

Tell me about the piece and your vision for it.

Declaration is a curious, colourful and candid exploration of ADHD, mental health and diagnosis. It follows performer Sarah’s experience seeking diagnosis for ADHD in her 30s – a complex, frustrating and isolating process. Following Sarah’s journey from childhood to present day, Declaration offers a rare insight into how ADHD impacts at different stages of a person’s life.

Declaration is a collaborative piece of theatre, written by myself and Sarah, so the vision is definitely not mine alone.

First and foremost we wanted to make a piece of theatre which people could relate to, something audiences could recognise themselves or someone they loved within. There is always a risk with autobiographical theatre that it can become an hour of naval-gazing therapy. It’s important to us that everything we make is relevant and useful for people. We wanted Declaration to be a warm, welcoming and relatable experience. With mental health and diagnosis a central focus, it was vital that the play was curious and playful as well as provocative.

So often in diagnosis the focus is on the negatives of a condition, rarely are we given a chance to celebrate the positives; Declaration is a hopeful celebration of the positive aspects of ADHD: creativity, spontaneity, and curiosity.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Declaration is a joyous and riotous dedication to square pegs everywhere, a celebration of people who dare or are forced to live outside society’s round hole. We hope that audiences will leave Declaration feeling a little more comfortable within their skin and a little less alone.

Declaration asks audiences to think about what they need to support their personal wellbeing, and consider the needs of others around them. We hope audiences take the time out to do so.

Declaration offers a fresh, fun and frank perspective on the ADHD debate, challenging stereotypes, stigmas and gender assumptions, demystifying one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions out there.

Has the show developed and changed since last year?

Declaration explores Sarah’s personal mental health and journey to gaining a diagnosis for ADHD. A lot has happened in Sarah’s life since last summer when we premiered the production at The Lowry, including getting married!

Sarah’s story has moved on; we talk about how declaring her mental health status publicly has impacted on her life and what the present and future look like for her now.

We’ve also had a tinker with some of our video content and spruced up some of the set – we’ve a fancy new prop we can’t wait to show you!

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

For a piece about ADHD, Declaration is surprisingly upbeat. Audiences can expect an honest and hopeful personal tale told through storytelling, comedy and conversations with audiences.

The play is set inside a cosy and colourful den like structure and though the performance is interactive, there is no pressure to be involved. If you’re not up for it, we respect that and you can just sit back, relax and enjoy. For those who wish to, there are opportunities to get in on the action, with group sing-a-longs and the chance to ring a bell. There’s also some banging tunes to boot!

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

Take time to consider the sort of work you want to make, what you want your voice to be in the industry and wider world.

Choose the people you collaborate with carefully. Ensure they share the same passion and values, and seek out people who will challenge you and push you beyond your comfort zone. You’ll find that this is the place you make your best work.

Be democratic. Don’t dictate a rehearsal room, it will only limit the potential of the work. In any room you will be surrounded by people with a wealth of professional and life experience, ready to draw upon and learn from.

Consume as much performance as possible; consume large scale theatre and tiny, experimental live art, sing-a-long to commercial musicals and support new writing on the fringe. Consume art across the board and draw from other sources; music, dance, visual art and comedy. The more you experience the easier it will be to shape the sort of work you want to make!

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