theatre

Provocative new play tackles mental health with tweeting, texting & Apple’s Siri

By Kitty Knowles 22 January 2016
The voice of Siri will feature in Technically Speaking. Pic: iStock/akinbostanci
Summary

Technically Speaking opens next week. Prepare to get involved.

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, yet many people still feel uncomfortable discussing mental health issues.

Male mental health, in particular, has long been overlooked.

Now, a new play opening in London’s beloved Arcola Theatre intends to tackle our preconceptions about male mental health head-on.

But if you thought you’d be able to sit back and passively enjoy Technically Speaking, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Attendees will tweet, text and vote online throughout and each viewer will leave the theatre with a very different experience…

Addressing male mental health

The story audiences see will be a personal one, says director Rosa Glover.

“I watched two precious men in my life struggle with mental illness, and worked closely with them to try and navigate a very complicated mental health system,” she told The Memo.

“The more I spoke to others about this, the more I heard the same story. I’m not pretending to have an answer to this issue, but I do know that speaking up, and acknowledging the problems, helps others to come to terms with what they are dealing with.”

Indeed, the cast and crew have all experienced mental health issues, directly or indirectly, and worked collaboratively to decide how to bring Technically Speaking to the stage.

How can we take part?

While the production will follow the storylines of three men (Martin, a tech entrepreneur trying to raise an investment round, Jack, a young unemployed guy looking for work and Phillip, a senior freelance creative, caring for a loved one), audience members will help make each night’s performance different from the next.

“The audience will recognise a great deal of the tech we use in the show,” says Glover.

“There will be familiar Powerpoint slides, Twitter feeds, the voice of Siri, headsets, as well as a startup voting system called Sli.do and a startup texting service called Nexmo.”

“The outcome isn’t necessarily affected by the audience,” says Glover, “but each audience member will definitely come away with their own version of our story, depending on how much, or how little they want to involve themselves.”

“I hope that the tech will bring the audience closer to the piece and the characters,” she adds.

Are technology & mental health linked?

We know that technology can both help and hinder our mental state: at one end, gaming can be used in therapy treatments, while our addiction to Facebook can make us feel angry and alone.

“Tech is often given a bad rep,” says Glover. “We are told that it’s keeping us away from our loved ones and stopping us from creating meaningful face to face relationships.”

“We watch other people’s seemingly perfect Instagram-filtered lives and forget that we too are putting that ‘perfect’ feed out to the world – but I don’t believe this the full story.”

“Tech connects the lonely, gives us an opportunity to teach people anywhere in the world, let’s us stay in touch with our loved ones across the world.”

“I believe that tech will offer us the opportunity to look carefully at our own lives, monitor our health and happiness, and make sure that we know when to switch on and when to switch off,” Glover says.

The takeaway?

Whether your excited to see mental health take centre-stage, or you’re intrigued by exactly how you can take part, Technically Speaking is set to be a groundbreaking and innovative production.

“There’s no easy way to look at mental health, it’s a tough subject,” says Glover, “but the tech gives us a way to ask the audience to become an active part of our story.”

“I hope the audience will realise they they too hold the answers to some of the issues we address, and perhaps become aware of some of the misconceptions they may have around the topics we touch on.”

Technically Speaking will run at The Arcola Theatre, London, from 2-6 February.

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