Actor Mark Lockyer trained at RADA. Over the last 30 years, he’s performed at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Old Vic, Young Vic and the Royal Court; he’s worked with Ken Campbell, Mark Rylance and Sam Mendes.
Directed by Ramin Gray and produced at the Actors Touring Company – the partnership last seen in Edinburgh with David Greig’s The Complaints at the Royal Lyceum – the show, Living with The Lights On, was staged at the Young Vic and has gone out on tour.
The production now gets its Scottish premiere, touring to Edinburg’s Scottish Storytelling Centre and Glasgow’s Citizens as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.
Ahead of its arrival in Scotland, Andrew Eaton Lewis who is the arts lead at the Mental Health Foundation and responsible for programming much of the festival, asked Mark Lockyer about the production.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about the time in your life that you describe in Living with the Lights On?
Living with the lights on is centred around my time at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1995. It was there that the odd and bizarre began happening to me and I had no idea what, why or how to stop it. I was going really well as a successful young actor. Then things began to fall apart.
How long have you been working on the show? And was it easier to do now there’s some distance from it all?
Distance from it all is very important. Much time has elapsed although I bring the story up to the present moment. I put the play in the drawer for 15 years; Nobody wanted to know about a play which is honest about mental health.
It wasn’t the climate. Two years ago I gave it to the artistic director of The Actors Touring Company to read. He was interested in mental health issues. He thought it was a winner – and here we are …
How have audiences responded to the show? What has been the most surprising/satisfying response?
I have no judgement on audience responses. It’s not my responsibility. I tell the story. I know it affects and touches many people on different levels. But people can feel whatever they wish. The show doesn’t manipulate. It’s honest and straight down the line. No frills.
Nothing surprises me with the show. One lady took her top off then put it back on again – Then walked out saying she liked my hair! Another lady’s phone rang during the show and she couldn’t switch it off so I answered it. It was her long lost sister asking if she could meet up? – Marion If you are reading this – I hope it all worked out.
What do your fellow actors think about it?
I don’t concern myself with what other actors think about my show. I have no idea. I’m far more interested in the general public and what they think.
How do you look after your mental health?
I look after my mental health in this order:
- I take my medication as directed.
- I eat properly or as best I can.
- I don’t drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke or drink coffee.
- I exercise 4-5 days a week.
- I take time to be alone and quiet every day. It’s good to catch your breath and think through what’s going on without outside input.
- I attempt to minimise my stress. I try to eliminate hurrying and indecision.
- When I make a mess of things, I forgive myself and others. I try to accept everything. Not always easy but I am not good if I think the whole world is out to get me…
- I laugh at myself as much as possible.
- I take responsibility for my life. My actions. My decisions. My feelings.
- I never give up. And if I do it’s not for long. I spent too many years ill – homeless – desperate – with nothing. Not today.
Life is worth living. Always. We have one chance. Take it. You never know what wonders await you just around the corner.