Raging Calm inspires recovery through its dramatic workshops

John Watts, at the Young Vic
By  Mat Amp

Raging Calm’s second 'Flight' 'workshop as part of the Scorched Earth project, unearthed raw personal and inspiring stories, at the St Mungo's Recovery College, on Sept 9th.

The Scorched Earth project, made possible by National Lottery funding, was initially inspired by a play written by C Walker entitled ‘Heartache in my Eyes’. It consists of a series of two week workshops where participants in recovery write short plays, often autobiographical in nature, that culminate in a live performance.

Jeanette Rourke, who produced the event, said: “The programme works by recruiting 12 people who want to use creativity and lived experience to create a performance at the end of the two weeks. A lot of it is to do with self-esteem, self worth, confidence building...it is life-changing and not just for the participants, but also for their friends and families who can come to understand and reconnect [to loved ones] through the performances.”

The production on the night featured the current participants sharing their deeply personal experiences through the performance of a series of vignettes they had written and rehearsed during the previous fortnight. Stories of isolation and rejection to elation and recovery were framed through the production that included themes such as loss, teenage pregnancy, education, drug addiction and homelessness. The result was a deeply moving and mesmerising production that managed to be extremely raw, touching and occasionally humourous.

Each actor performed on their own or using the other members of the group, to enact the story that they had written. The quality of the individual plays and performances varied, as you would expect from people with very little experience between them, but the production’s impact undoubtedly came from the authenticity of its content.

The production started chaotically with the group shouting random slogans before John Watts, a former Poached Creative volunteer, delivered a solo piece that centred around society's judgemental hypocrisy. John’s experience as an actor was evident in his stage presence. (He is connected with the Two Boroughs/Young Vic and has featured in a number of their theatre productions about the marginalized in our community). He injected pathos by talking about the loss of his friends and family but hope was offered through sporadic positive messages such as ‘throw that stone' and 'blood may be thicker than water but love is thicker still.'

Tragedy and sadness were offset by hope and humour throughout the 12 stories, that gave the production a cathartic feel and for the performers it felt like an early step on the road to recovery. This strong emotional journey was truly felt by the audience and added to the power of the production.

It was a night of deeply powerful drama. It was raw, occasionally humorous and at times disturbing, but immensely rewarding for both the audience and the participants. It is astonishing how the program has had such a positive impact on its participants in such a short amount of time.

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