Coming to the Hope Theatre in Islington, later this month is award winning playwright Meghan Tyler’s play Medicine. The play takes place in Ireland and explores the relationship between main character Moira and her mum. Described as boldly funny and achingly sad, the play looks at how the effects of mental illness affects us and the people around us. I was lucky to grab a few moments of Meghan’s time to find out more about the play.
HS: What is your play Medicine about and what can audiences expect from the play?
MT: Essentially, Medicine is a quick-witted tragicomedy about teenage mental health against the backdrop of how difficult the world can be in 2018. Full of love and loss, it’s a gorgeous wee piece exploring how a family dynamic can shift when someone suffers with a mental health issue. The play itself is driven by the sparky relationship between Ma and her teenage daughter Moira’ – it’s quite classically tumultuous and a joy to watch. Audiences can expect honestly, some laughs, some tears, and, hopefully, a good night out at the theatre full of heart and feeling.
HS: Why did you decide to play the lead character Moira?
MT: Can I say budget restrictions? Ha! Well, Moira is a character with heart, humour and wit, who’s personality is warped by her deteriorating mental health. She’s very much based on a younger version of myself who became bogged down by depression. I wouldn’t say she’s the lead character as this play is very much about the team of Ma and Moira. To be honest, I wrote this part without an intention to play her. Now there’s something I’m quite proud of in being able to present the sometimes brutal, often darkly comic side of depression to the stage. She’s an accurate representation of just how layered that struggle can be – it’s not all staring into darkness. At the same time, the team… ooft. The team is a dream. Being able to play with the likes of Lynsey-Anne Moffat and Adam Best (titans of theatre) is too tempting as an actor to turn down, plus the sheer talent of the rest of the creative company makes this too special a job not to act in.
HS: How collaborative was director Paul Brotherston in bringing this play to the stage?
MT: Paul Brotherston is the best collaborator I know, and his dream-like attitude to working as a collective is ever-present on this project. We’ve worked on numerous shows together, especially with our company Blood Of The Young, and at this stage I can safely say he’s just got that something about him. That spark and vision. Seriously. I hate him. He’s brilliant. Watch out world. There’s a creative magnetism there; a mutual trust founded on inspired respect for the other’s vision. He’s the first person I send my scripts to and the first person I listen to feedback from because he inherently values what it means to be a team in this industry, at the same time as seeing the biggest picture. No opinion is wrong in the room – it’s always a collaborative process, a collaborative medium; I’m a very lucky writer to have Paul as the human bringing this to the stage.
HS: What are the main challenges in writing about mental health for the stage?
MT: As someone who shouts quite loudly about their own mental health issues, writing for mental health for the stage can, at times, resonate a bit too much. There’ll be some days the last thing you want to approach or work on is a mental health issue, like depression, if you suffer with it. However I think it’s extremely important to break the stigma. It is a topic that needs to be viciously tackled, then smashed into pieces with a sledgehammer. In writing about mental health for the stage there’s an inherent anxiety that the work you create won’t be representative or address just how complex and layered something like depression can be. Your brain tells you you’re a fool. You just have to tell it to pipe down.
HS: What advice would you give to those who want to write plays about mental health issues?
MT: If you are writing a play about a mental health issue whilst living with a mental health issue: breathe, smoke (if you smoke), allow yourself to order that pizza, be kind to yourself.
Be kind, always. It’s a tough world out there – we all need to band together and lift each other up. I’d say, maybe ask yourself why you’ve decided to write this play or tackle this topic when it’s something so dearly personal there. There might be more than one answer, but it’s good to check in with yourself when dealing with something that can be extremely tender. If you are writing a play about a mental health issue without ever having to deal with a mental health issue, I’d say: Do. Your. Research. Talk to people. More often than not (American TV writers… I’m looking at you) mental health in the arts becomes a parody, a gag, or an “ooh look, an insane asylum, they’re all mad!” trope. Heck, one in four people suffer with problems regarding mental health. The term itself covers anything from ‘depression’ to ‘OCD’. There’s a certain accuracy on what it means to live with a mental illness that is severely lacking in the arts. Be thoughtful, considerate, and sensitive. And always be kind.
Huge thanks to Meghan for taking the time out to answer my questions. For tickets and more information on Medicine please visit http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/medicine/
Until next time,