Play to challenge mental health discrimination

Published: 23 June 2017 at 10:00

Promo image from Shell Shock

Gala event features a performance focusing on issues faced by military veterans

A gala performance of a play designed to tackle mental health stigma and some of the issues faced by military veterans as they return to civilian life is taking place in Cambridge later this month.

The play Shell Shock tells the story of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Tommy Atkins, whose observations on the absurdities of every-day life on ‘Civvy Street’ are frequently comic, occasionally absurd, sometimes violent but always poignant. His wired energy leads to hyper-emotional responses – from post office queues and a trip to Ikea to his relationships with family and friends – causing him to feel alienated and angry.

The play, produced by Smokescreen Productions, is described by review website British Theatre as “a powerful depiction of the effects of combat on ordinary soldiers and the people around them” and by Scene1+ as “an astonishing piece of drama… leaves the audience impassioned, enlightened and educated”. It will be performed at Anglia Ruskin University’s Mumford Theatre, in East Road, on 30 June, following a public lecture by Professor Susan Klein entitled Military Mental Health Pride and Prejudice: Change in Time or Time to Change?

A panel of experts and some of the actors and producers will take part in a question and answer session following the performance. This panel will include Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, former President of the British Psychological Society and a visiting professor at Anglia Ruskin; Matt Fossey, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s Veterans and Families Institute (VFI); and Helen Odell-Miller OBE Professor of Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin, who is leading an academic evaluation of the play.

Susan Klein, Professor of Health and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“The prospect of using the creative arts to highlight the issues faced by military personnel returning to civilian life is an exciting one and we are delighted to be supporting this performance.

“The play has been very successful elsewhere in the UK and has won praise for challenging the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health difficulties. I am looking forward to contributing to an enjoyable evening.”

Shell Shock has already been performed at several venues around the country and is supported by the VFI – which is conducting research that aims to influence government policy, carrying out education and training, and is available for consultation and associated services.

Tickets for the performance are priced at £12 (£10 concessions, £6 with HM Forces/Veterans ID). To book, call 01223 352932.