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Warwick psychiatrist’s research inspires play

The huge challenges of caring for a teenager with psychosis is being brought to the stage in a new play by an Olivier award-winning writer.

Mike Kenny has based Cracked on a study conducted by Professor Swaran Singh of Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick. Professor Singh’s work examines the first stages of psychosis, its early warning signs and the symptoms experienced by sufferers such as isolation, fear and confusion.

Professor Singh said: “Psychosis is a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

“Often sufferers aren’t able to recognise their strange behaviour. Carers are very important as someone having a psychotic episode for the first time may need someone else close to them to persuade them to visit their GP to get help.

“It is wonderful that the often difficult experiences of carers have been brought to the stage in Cracked.”

Mike Kenny uses the technique of verbatim theatre by which the text is generated from interviews with 'real life' people. He draws on the interviews with the parents and an older sibling of three young people with psychosis to explore the impact of the illness. In particular it examines what the patients experienced during their first episode of psychosis.

In addition verse written by poet Laureate for Birmingham Symphony Hall, Julie Boden, is used to convey the experiences of the young patients. The poetry is delivered by an ensemble of young people recruited locally to each venue who perform alongside the professional company.

The play is produced by Sante Theatre Warwick and directed by Claudette Bryanston. Claudette has had a long association with the University of Warwick as a Theatre director both teaching in the School of Education and as a Senior Fellow, previously with the Institute of Health and now with Warwick Medical School.

Claudette said: “This has been an exciting challenge both dramaturgically and in terms of the material which is deeply disturbing. It is a ground breaking new play that examines the isolation, fear, confusion and denial experienced by the carers whilst illuminating the complexity of the symptoms suffered by the young adults whose stories we follow.”

Following the performance, there will be a post-show discussion with an expert panel consisting of mental health service users, psychiatrists, social scientists and theatre practitioners and with local mental health user groups and activists.

As well as a touring play filmed footage including interviews with Professor Singh, Claudette Bryanston and writer Mike Kenny will be available. It is hoped the video will complement the play with valuable insights into psychosis and other aspects of mental health.

Cracked opens at Nottingham’s Lakeside Theatre on 30 September 2015 before touring in Birmingham, Derby, Glasgow and Coventry.

Professor Singh’s research was conducted for a Department of Health (NIHR) funded programme.

22 September 2015

Pictured: writer Mike Kenny

Notes to Editors

  • Tour dates:
    • Lakeside Arts Nottingham, 30 September, Box Office: 0115 846 7777
    • Derby Theatre, 10 October, Box Office: 01332 593939
    • Blue Coat School Theatre, Coventry, 15-16 October, Box Office: 02476 223542
    • Birmingham Rep Theatre, 20 October, Box Office: 0121 236 4455
    • Platform Glasgow, 25 October, Box Office: 0141 276 9670
  • Mike Kenny is one of England’s leading writers. He was in the Independent on Sunday’s list of Top Ten Living Playwrights and his plays are performed regularly in UK and all over the world. Mike’s adaptation of 'The Railway Children' won an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and the People's Choice Award in Canada.
  • Santé Theatre Warwick, based at WMS at the University of Warwick, is an innovative collaboration between academia and the Arts. Award-winning Artistic Director Claudette Bryanston and eminent Social Sciences academic Prof Gillian Hundt have developed several projects to take scientific research to a wider audience including the acclaimed play Passing On.
  • The play is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is based on findings of the National Institute of Health Research (NICR) research programme by Prof Swaran Singh, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick.
  • Santé Theatre Warwick is on Twitter @SantéTheatre #Crackedplay

Mike Kenny

Writer: Mike Kelly

Further Information

For further details, please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick

M: 07824 540863
E: N.Jones.1@warwick.ac.uk