In bringing Hold Your Breath (Count To Ten) to life, we were faced with a conundrum.
How do you make a show that’s inherently about mental and neurodevelopmental disorders without contributing to the stigma surrounding these topics?
A stereotype exists in the arts community: that an artist needs to be damaged, or facing adversity, to create their work effectively. We can’t help it, it’s almost tradition. However, it can be dangerous, and contributes to that long-held stigma; it can lead to many of us avoiding self-care habits in the interest and pursuit of creating ‘great art’. We are terrified of losing our creativity.
I know many other artists who struggle privately with mental health issues, and instead of talking about it, we can often find ourselves hiding behind our art.
It’s important that at least some of the real stories see light, because it helps our audiences understand that many people are dealing with this same human issue, and only then will we be able to fully examine quite how complex it all is.
We were lucky enough to premiere the original work at The Blue Room Theatre in Perth last year, over a three-week season.
It was quite divisive; very well-received in some circles, resisted in others. A perfectly excellent zeitgeist to exist in, and one that generated many great conversations in the bar afterward. There were priceless moments of understanding and realisation between absolute strangers.
Handled poorly, storylines about disorder and disability can have harmful effects, perpetuating the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the likelihood that those with mental illness will seek appropriate help.
We can’t pretend to have solved the issues by any means, but by diving in the deep end and getting extremely meta about the whole process of creating a show, we hope to unpack the behind-the-scenes moments of vulnerability that humans hide from others.
It’s an exercise in paving the way to self-acceptance, taking a moment to hold your breath, count to 10, and clear your mind.
Hold Your Breath (Count To Ten) attempts to turn the lens inwards towards how these experiences affect the individual rather than those around them.
The experience of living with a disorders is not necessarily something that can be fully encapsulated by anyone other than those who are actively experiencing it; attempts otherwise are still extraordinarily valuable, but can often fall flat in tackling wider societal struggles, especially in regards to accessibility issues.
What we’ve created is extremely experimental, and doesn’t always fit the mould of what audiences might expect from a performance work.
It’s often hilarious, sometimes dark, occasionally confused, hopefully enlightening, and brutally frank. We hope that audiences can come along and hear us out, and hopefully share their own stories and struggles with us, and with each other.
We share a commitment in our work to deeply attack the stereotypes of art-making. There is certainly a truth that living with pain in a deep, dark hole can lead to great stories, but there is also value in embracing who you are, weaving it into your work, and stepping out into the light.
Hold Your Breath (Count To Ten) plays Bondi Feast, July 18-20