A new informal play about experiences of mental illness will be performed in Weymouth this week.

CoCreate, a community interest company based in Dorset, will be bringing a short interactive performance to The Lantern Trust called “Did Not Attend.”

The theatre group is comprised of people with lived experience of mental illness, and poor mental health. Together we’ve been working on a short ‘Forum Theatre’ performance that we’d like to share with other groups with similar lived experiences.

The show will be based on company members’ own lived experience with mental illness and the reasons why people struggle to attend appointments. This includes issues such as homelessness and anxiety making it difficult for people to leave the house. 

During the performance, audience members have the opportunity to stop the action and offer suggestions to the actor so their character’s oppressive situation can be changed.

Dorset Echo: CoCreate company rehearsals for Did Not Attend

One member of the company, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "Developing a character for the play allowed me to express daily challenges when accessing services with complex mental health. Change is needed,  some of these barriers could easily be rectified with better communication , conduct and accessibility that is patient centred. 

"I feel health practices need to really speak with individuals about barriers and truly want to change , not just tick box, like the mood sheets , otherwise it's pointless. Taking part in the project also helped me positively with my mental health"

The company is based in Dorset works throughout the South West. There are around 120 people who attend over the course of the year, aged between the ages of 20s and 70s. It strives to help people with mental health problems through various arts projects.

By encouraging audience participation, the team hopes this short play will create a safe and open sense of community. 

Gemma Alldred, Co-Director of CoCreate, said: “It is a way of empowering people to find their voice by actively working to find solutions for challenges they face.

Dorset Echo: CoCreate company rehearsals for Did Not Attend

“It’s very improvised. We can’t make it too easy because life is not easy. Each actor must stay with their character even if the solution from audience can’t make a happy ending quickly, we will be working towards solutions as nothing is as easy as a happy ending.”

The project was funded by Community Action Network and Public Health Dorset who are interested in understanding why certain groups of people are more likely to miss mental health care appointments. The research gathered, based on the answers provided by the audience members, will be reported back to CAN and Public Health Dorset to hopefully instigate change.

Did Not Attend will be performed at The Lantern Trust, Hope House, Weymouth on Friday, February 9 at 1:30pm. It is free to attend and refreshments will also be available. 

More information about the company can be found on its website www.cocreate.org.uk