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Comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe are blowing up the stigma of mental health

EDINBURGH — One of the buzziest shows at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe is about depression. Severe clinical depression in fact. Bryony Kimmings and her partner Tim Grayburn’s Fake It 'Til You Make It, which explores in depth Grayburn’s secret depression and nervous breakdown, hogged the headlines over the festival’s opening days and is sold out for its entire run.

They’re not the only artists who have focussed on mental health; this year’s programme is packed with productions that take aim at the issue, from Brigitte Aphrodite’s My Beautiful Black Dog to stand-up Carl Donnelly’s Jive Ass Honky and cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat’s Black, a production whose blurb quotes Maya Angelou: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

 

 

 Mental health is a big theme at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

 

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Image: Vicky Leta/Mashable

EDINBURGH — One of the buzziest shows at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe is about depression. Severe clinical depression in fact. Bryony Kimmings and her partner Tim Grayburn’s Fake It 'Til You Make It, which explores in depth Grayburn’s secret depression and nervous breakdown, hogged the headlines over the festival’s opening days and is sold out for its entire run.

They’re not the only artists who have focussed on mental health; this year’s programme is packed with productions that take aim at the issue, from Brigitte Aphrodite’s My Beautiful Black Dog to stand-up Carl Donnelly’s Jive Ass Honky and cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat’s Black, a production whose blurb quotes Maya Angelou: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

See also: Semicolon tattoos are a new way to talk about mental health

 

 

Mental health has clearly emerged as a major theme among comics this year, and Carl Donnelly thinks it's a reflection on shifting attitudes in general."I'd like to think it is because the perception of mental health issues is changing and people are now more vocal in challenging the old views of it," he told Mashable over email.

"The Fringe tends to be one of those places that catches the zeitgeist so I don’t think that it is a case that performers are leading some sort of charge against the status quo. I actually think it’s the opposite and society is becoming more aware of mental health issues and shows are reflecting that."

Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn's Fake It Til You Make It runs at the Traverse until the end of August., told The Scotsman she was massively relieved when audience members shared similar stories after her show.

Of course, the benefits to the audience, whether they suffer from something similar or know someone who does, can be considerable, helping those faces in the crowd realise they’re not alone. “People want to come up and say ‘me too, thank you for telling my story,’” Kimmings said.

“They say, ‘he’s Tim and I’m you.’ It makes people want to own their own mental illness. Sometimes we get emails saying ‘I’d never addressed it and I’ve just been to the doctor’s’ and they’re amazing emails to receive. Other people ask lots of questions and we have to signpost them to different services.”

“We haven’t yet met somebody in total crisis, but we are fully prepared that we may get a call or an email.

 

It’s a lot of responsibility to unlock all these emotions in people in a show

It’s a lot of responsibility to unlock all these emotions in people in a show and not be there at the end of the day to say ‘if you fucking need us, give us a call.’”

Carl Donnelly has also struck a chord with viewers. “I have had quite a lot of guys message me and say they have had similar experiences,” he told The Scotsman. “If you can do it in a funny, normal way then it makes it OK to talk about it. I think one of the problems with depression – particularly with men – is that in social groups they rarely show their insecurity.”

“If you can talk about depression in a funny, silly way then maybe people will be more able to accept they have got some problems and maybe they will be more able to talk about it.”

Kimmings has thought about taking it one step further, and bringing her show to audiences that could benefit most. “It would be really good to do it in places that have very high suicide rates, because I think they’re the places that need it the most,” she said. “Like Japan has a very high suicide rate, Finland has a very high suicide rate, Eastern Europe does. It would be cool to be like, on a map, where needs this show the most.”

Thousands of comedians and performers vie for attention in Edinburgh during August. that comics may be more disposed to "high levels of psychotic traits." However, Donnelly dismisses the connection during his show and Paul Jenkins, from the charity Rethink Mental Illness, has warned that "we must make sure we guard against the 'mad creative genius' stereotype."

Nevertheless, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a daunting, competitive and often grueling experience for performers, an entire month of usually daily shows in tiny spaces with an expectant audience inches away and not afraid to walk out or heckle.

It’s no surprise that many performers buckle under the strain, and this year a new initiative, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and entitled The Sick Of The Fringe, is exploring the effect of performing on the body and the mind, and offering support and workshops for artists.

Discussing mental health issues with strangers, for comic effect, is not an easy thing to do, but the artists bravely stepping out on stage this year are helping to blow up the stigma around the issue, one gag at a time.

Several comedians are performing at a benefit concert for the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, A Gala For Mental Health, on Sunday Aug 16. Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn and Carl Donnelly are joining La Gateau Chocolat and Felicity Ward for the gig, while performer Mike McShane is assembling an improv troupe that will pay tribute to Robin Williams, who committed suicide last August.

Source:

http://mashable.com/2015/08/12/comedians-mental-health-stigma/