Q&A video: Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem tackles intergenerational mental health matters

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Timed to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the full-length premiere of Rachel Tookey’s award-winning new play Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem is now running at the Old Red Lion Theatre. I got to speak to Rachel and her producer-sister Hannah about how their own family inspired this story exploring how trauma and mental illness can be passed from one generation to the next.

Did you know? You’re four to six times more likely to take your own life if someone in your family has. In fact, genetic influence accounts for 30-50% of the likelihood of suicide in an individual.

While the story in this three-hander – showing a woman caught between her father and son’s struggles and addictions, as delicately and beautifully played by Madeleine Bowyer, Dan Mullane and Daniel Rainsford in Thomas Martin‘s production – is fictional, it’s inspired by Tookey’s own familial history.

Tookey’s maternal grandmother was abused in a strict Irish Catholic orphanage as a child; amongst her four children, two – Rachel’s aunt and uncle – committed suicide. And Rachel herself struggled with mental health issues as a student at Cambridge.

Turning this trauma into positive, conversation-starting theatre has been a family affair too. Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem is produced by Rachel’s older sister Hannah Tookey for Voxie Productions.

I was joined by both sisters after last night’s performance at the Old Red Lion Theatre. We also had interjections from recent drama school graduate Daniel Rainsford, who makes a memorable debut here as a student whose exam stress becomes too much, with shoutouts to director Thomas Martin and his creative team who turned what could have been a quite naturalistic story to a highly theatrical staging, rich in symbolism.

Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem continues at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 25 May 2019.

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Terri Paddock
Terri Paddock runs MyTheatreGroup, which provides content and social media marketing services for theatre clients across channels including MyTheatreMates.com, StageFaves.com, Stage Talk and TerriPaddock.com. Previously,
Terri Paddock founded WhatsOnStage.com and the WhatsOnStage Awards, running the company and its events from 1996 to 2013. Terri is also the author of two novels, Come Clean and Beware the Dwarfs, and has previously written for the Evening Standard, Independent, The Times and other national publications. She also produces the annual Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and acts as a digital, content strategy and event consultant for theatre, producers and other clients. She tweets about theatre at @TerriPaddock.
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Terri Paddock on FacebookTerri Paddock on InstagramTerri Paddock on LinkedinTerri Paddock on TwitterTerri Paddock on Youtube
Terri Paddock
Terri Paddock runs MyTheatreGroup, which provides content and social media marketing services for theatre clients across channels including MyTheatreMates.com, StageFaves.com, Stage Talk and TerriPaddock.com. Previously,
Terri Paddock founded WhatsOnStage.com and the WhatsOnStage Awards, running the company and its events from 1996 to 2013. Terri is also the author of two novels, Come Clean and Beware the Dwarfs, and has previously written for the Evening Standard, Independent, The Times and other national publications. She also produces the annual Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and acts as a digital, content strategy and event consultant for theatre, producers and other clients. She tweets about theatre at @TerriPaddock.

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