Removing the stigma


By Renee Bogatko, Image Credits – James Urwin

Mental Health is a topic many people prefer to shy away from and brush under the carpet.

While it looks to be improving, there still seems to be this negative stigma associated with it.

A local production aims to start an honest and open discussion about our mental health, while helping remove that stigma.

S.A.D is a physical theatre piece with eight cast members – all of which have their own mental health story to tell.

It’s based on real experiences with an original score and will bring something very unique to the stage.

The show uses clowning and dance to engage and move the audience without dialogue.

 So, where does the title S.A.D come from?

“It’s a play on both feeling down and also Seasonal Affective Disorder, the mood disorder that affects people with the change of the seasons,” Creator and Director, Charlie Wan, said.

“S.A.D brings mental health into the light without stigma, a show full of laughter, tears, truth and most importantly, hope and healing.”

Narrator Distracto guides the audience through the “seasons of mental health” while exploring the lives of those affected.

How did the idea come about?

Charlie has suffered through her own mental health journey and has struggled to overcome the stigma around talking about it.

“People will comfortably have a conversation about the weather and how they’ve been taking cold and flu tablets. But when it comes to our mental health, a cloud of awkwardness tends to descend on the conversation,” she said.

“We don’t know what to say! We think we have to be serious and in some cases we even sweep it away to avoid talking about it.”

Charlie, who is a performer with a clowning background, said the idea came to her from a need she saw – the need to talk about it and embrace demons in a safe space.

“We are not here to finish the conversation, we just want to start it,” she said.

“If we can reach one person with this show, change their thinking and make them be kinder, whether it be to others or themselves, then we will have done what we set out to do.”

Charlie hopes the audience take away hope, joy, a different perspective and an understanding of the importance of self-love and acknowledging darkness.

While Charlie’s thrilled to bring her visions to life, she admitted, it’s also quite terrifying.

“A lot of these snapshots are based on my story. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling vulnerable. But it isn’t just my story anymore,” she said.

“S.A.D is the coming together of people who want to make a difference. As much as it is nerve-wracking, it is the most freeing and empowering experience of my life.”

The show coincides with World Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10, 2018.

Charlie insists, the show is not super heavy like some might expect.

“It is uplifting, hilarious at times and a colourful dream,” she said.

“You don’t need to understand it to enjoy watching a six-foot two man dressed in a puppy costume!”

S.A.D is also not just for those who’ve struggled with mental health issues.

“If you have been affected by mental health, we hope this show will be a cathartic and joyful experience that reminds you there is a beautiful summer waiting at the end of the cold and you are deserving of it,” she said.

“If you haven’t been affected, this is the perfect opportunity to begin to understand what people around you may be experiencing.”

And if that’s not enough to persuade you to book a ticket…

“Maybe the idea of seeing cute clowns to cure your phobias of Stephen King-esque horror clowns will be the drawcard,” Charlie said.

On a serious note, Charlie and the team would like to leave you with this message…

“We cannot simplify this, we cannot tell every story, but we can, through the rawest form of expression, start an open conversation that we hope you will join.”

This is a production you won’t want to miss Canberra! Book your ticket online today!

What: S.A.D – A Journey through the Seasons of Mental Health

When: October 9 – 13

Where: Canberra Theatre Centre

For more information, visit the S.A.D website and follow the team on Instagram!

8 August 2018

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