The writer spoke to LLLC’s Emma Clarendon about her new play Lost in Thought, playing at the Hen and Chickens (21 July) and the Bread & Roses (29 July).
Could you tell me a bit more about Lost in Thought?
Lost in Thought is a two-hander about a single mother, Marie and her daughter, Felicity. Felicity suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Marie is desperate to help her but at a loss as to how to do so. The play switches between scenes from the past, where you can see how Felicity’s OCD developed and how it’s shaped their lives and their relationship, and the present where Felicity is on an utterly fantastic date but stuck in the toilet, trapped by her own thoughts. As the play progresses you see how they’ve ended up where they are and where they can go from there.
How did the idea for the play come about? Do you think OCD is regularly misunderstood by people?
I was diagnosed with OCD when I was around 16. I’ve never been very comfortable talking about it because of the stigma around mental health – both in reality and the stigma I imagined there to be I think. I generally felt ashamed and embarrassed. Part of that was that I didn’t come across anyone else who seemed to have a similar sort of issue to me.
I now realise that that’s because OCD is regularly misunderstood as a sort of compulsion to clean or tidy things up and while this can sometimes be the case it’s a vast over-simplification of a serious neurological condition. I read a couple of memoirs by people who articulate that so well (The Woman Who Thought Too Much by Joanne Limburg and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam) and that was the very first time I realised I wasn’t completely alone in this. I really wanted to add my voice to the conversation and to address the incorrect stereotyping of OCD in an accessible way. I personally always find it easier to understand big or complicated issues through smaller, personal stories so the kind of storytelling you get in theatre and novels are my go to.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
I hope that people leave the show with a visceral understanding of what OCD is and how it feels. The problem with mental health, in general, is that it’s very very hard to really explain or understand how another person is feeling. That’s why I’m delighted to have Helena Jackson directing as she is experienced in working with neurodiverse actors and stories and is very talented at working with actors and text to express things that are usually intangible or invisible.
What can audiences expect from the play? Although it tackles an important subject Lost in Thought is, at its heart, a story about a mother and her daughter. I’m very close to my mother and I’ve long been fascinated with the intensity of mother/daughter relationships and how they adapt over a lifetime. Both actresses give wonderful performances and I really hope that audiences will see themselves or those they love in the characters. Audiences can expect a unique story, based on my own experiences, told beautifully.