Theatre and Chronic Pain

Someone Should Start Laughing 

I am so very lucky to be in the position that I am right now. Through the help of social media I have been able to meet and spend time with an amazing group of courageous women. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raquel Meseguer, the director and wonder woman who has made this project possible. Because of her, I am finally able to rehearse and perform in a space that is safe, accessible and inclusive. The rehearsal space is flexible enough for us to take part in all aspects of the project, no matter what our physical or mental state is. By adopting this way of rehearsing, we can join in from sitting, standing or lying down.  

I have always loved performing, anyone who knows me, will know this. However, since I’ve been diagnosed with a multitude of chronic illnesses, I have found the theatre world to quite alienating and not all that accessible to people like me. There have been many times over the past four years where I have had to listen to my body, and complete written assessments instead of practical ones, whilst at university studying Drama. I often find that get angry at myself for not being able to keep up with other people my age. I watch them perform and I get jealous. I know that I shouldn’t, but it is incredibly difficult to accept that sometimes I cannot do the things that I used to. I often get angry at my body for making me like this.

The trouble with the theatre world is that long rehearsals, lots of energy and frequent movement are needed to create a show or a performance. The trouble with chronic pain is that it is unpredictable, we often do not know how we will feel day to day, often we can only get out of the house every few days, and only for short amounts of time, being in constant pain makes you very tired, and the pain and fatigue often limit how you can move, therefore making life in the theatre world incredibly difficult for people with chronic pain. The theatre world needs more accessible projects and pioneers willing to create them. Theatre in England is frequently performed by able bodied actors, or actors with health problems who attempt to keep up.

The guilt of not being able to show up to a rehearsal is a huge problem that I face, my illnesses are unpredictable and therefore so am I. I feel like people will judge me poorly and think of me as unreliable, as I can often only let people know last minute whether I will be there or not. It is difficult to accept that I need to take days off in order to rest.

Someone Should Start Laughing is a project that I am so grateful to be part of. I am able to do what I love, without fear of judgment as the other performers face similar problems. Although our journey has been short, I feel like I have connected with these women on a much deeper level than anyone I’ve worked with before. I am honored to know them and to work alongside them as they are just incredible.

It is difficult to describe what this project has done for me as I simply cannot find the words. I am so inspired by the women in this project and I hope that I can work further with them in the future.

“The Unchartered Collective grew out of a small group in Bristol, UK. Out of our shared experiences of living with chronic illness, we develop projects like Someone Should Start Laughing (supported by Arts Council UK & Ferment) and The Resting Revolution.” – The Unchartered Collective 

Tickets are available from http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk/ferment-fortnight-july-2017.html

“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”
Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

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