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New theatre: Get Yourself Together

Described as a show about the DWP and being from Bolton, Get Yourself Together explores depression, politics and Christmas. As the show hits the Edinburgh Fringe this month, here’s the show’s creator, rising talent Josh Coates.

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy recently. It’s probably down to the fact I’ve made a show about mental health. It’s called Get Yourself Together. I feel like I’m generalising a lot when I say it’s about mental health but let’s start with that. It’s a show about mental health.

I’ve been thinking about empathy because I’m wondering if trying to invite the audience to emphasise with mental health conditions is actually the right way to go about making this show. There’s been lots of shows over the past year about mental health and I think the majority of them have done a fantastic job about creating a shared space of experiences for performances and audiences a like. I really like these shows, in particular Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburns Fake it till you make it and Zoe Murtagh’s Sacre Blue! They help in showing the audience what it’s like to experience the things that go on in their heads. They paint vivid pictures of compassion mixed with painful memories. They are tough to watch but they are important pieces of theatre.

But what happens after empathy has been created?

Get Yourself Together attempts to see what happens after empathy has been established. Now the performer and audiences have shared something, what can we do with it? We have this energy and it’d be a shame to leave it in the theatre.

After establishing a shared space to discuss experiences with mental health, I wanted to discuss what happens to our mental health when policies, that are churned out of a shitty beef grinder, have massive, direct affect on our well being. In the show I talk a fair bit about being on Jobseekers and the 2015 (and kinda the 2016) budget. I wanted to talk about how my mental health and other people’s mental health had been affected by politics and economics.

So far the reactions to the show have been really surprising. We’ve had a lot of people come up after the show to share their experiences and have a cuddle. We’ve had a few people share with us their experiences with the DWP and how it was odd that this was the first time, for the audience member, that this was the first time the Department of Work and Pensions had been mentioned on a stage. The really surprising part is that the most common response has been people admitting that they didn’t see their depression as a political issue.

This is what we do after empathy. We come together and we discuss what to do next. We have gathered together and now is the time to question those in power about what they are going to do about mental health. We show solidarity to those in vulnerable positions and support them in anyway we can. When empathy is created we are together. Get Yourself Together is about using that community and it’s power to demand for changes.

Get Yourself Together is showing next Wednesday 10th August at The Summerhall Festival, Roundabout Theatre. Find out more and get tickets here.

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