New musical Dissociated goes inside the dreams of its protagonist to explore mental health issues and recovery from child sexual abuse. Composer, psychotherapist and founder of Skitzoid Productions, Dave Bain, explains how immersive theatre is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness. Time to get booking!
Alex is a twenty-seven-year-old surgical student in her last year of training, whose life seems to be on an upward trajectory. But pressures are building and, when her grandmother dies, her crisis reaches a tipping point. In Dissociated, the audience join Alex in her dreams, accompanying her at different stages of her life through her unconscious.
As I write this article, it’s five weeks to go to the opening of Dissociated. Today I’ve got to order a fruit machine on Amazon. Last week I ordered some gold doubloons and a space hopper. My wife thinks that anyone looking at my purchase history would think I am pirate from the 1970s with a gambling streak. Meanwhile, my production to-do list never seems to get any shorter, as it fills with marketing, script rewrites and budget problems (ie. there’s never enough money).
It’s at this kind of point where I find it’s worth pulling myself back from the minutiae of the day-to-day to remember why I’m doing this.
Firstly, I love theatre. There’s been plenty in the media across the last few years about being mindful. For me, theatre is a great way to do this. When you’re sitting in an audience, the electricity generated between yourself and the actors pulls you into the present moment. This is why our shows are immersive – it gives you the space to openly acknowledge this, and play with that energy a bit more.
As well as being a writer/director, I’m also a psychotherapist. My work with clients has not only informed my writing – last year’s Game Over is about suicide/depression, and Dissociated is about trauma/recovery from abuse – but also my approach to writing. As a therapist, the most important thing in my work is to be present with my clients. This is a lot more than just being in the room, it’s about being attentive to their shifting moods, and responding in a kind, receptive way.
When I’m writing, or reviewing what I’ve written, part of me is trying to empathise with the audience, and imagine how they might be responding to what is emerging. This, in turn, helps me shape the writing.
“It’s quite difficult to judge yourself this way; it’s why people need therapists—we tend to judge other people’s problems with more objectivity than our own”
However, it’s quite difficult to judge yourself this way; it’s why people need therapists—we tend to judge other people’s problems with more objectivity than our own. That’s why having other people around you to give some perspective is so important—so a big shout-out to my script doctor wife and all the cast and crew.
Dissociated is about child sexual abuse. I’ve worked with survivors for ten years, so I felt I had some sense of what they go through. The challenge was finding a framework to explore this story so that it didn’t become too overwhelming for audiences, and finding a way to help them stay present to the (sometimes difficult) material. By setting the play in Alex’s (our lead’s) dreams, I hope we have managed this.
I’ve seen a lot of immersive shows over the past twenty years. I’ve enjoyed them all immensely, but Goat & Monkey’s Reverence was definitely one of the high points. They managed to keep the balance between bringing the audience into the narrative but also keeping their story moving forward.
I hope that with Game Over, and now Dissociated, Skitzoid Productions can build on this framework. At the very least, we’re going to have a good shot at it, so please come down and let us know how we’re doing.
Dissociated runs from 15 to 26 October 2019 at the Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, Above the Oxford Arms, London NW1 7BU, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £13.20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Note: Dissociated is suitable for audiences aged 18+. It features adult themes around mental health and trauma.