"What happens when you believe the stigma about you?
Is it possible to love your biggest failure?
In this gripping one-woman show, Catriona explores depression and mental health stigma through her highly personal blend of raw physicality and honest, open storytelling."
We’ve interviewed Catriona ahead of her festival bow…
Why are you making this show? What is it that you want to say?
Well, I’d say first of all as someone who has suffered from depression most of my life, I feel that it’s really important to acknowledge our mental health. I mean specifically the fact that it’s a spectrum, and like our physical health, anyone could suffer from ill-health at any point. There’s no immunity. So a greater understanding of this, and greater empathy is really important. And also I think it’s important that anyone who is suffering or has suffered can see a story like theirs on stage, reflected back at them. And to be honest, I guess I hope it will help me personally and creatively as well - depression has been such a defining part of my life, but I really need to make space inside me for other stories.
What have you discovered so far in the process of making this show?
What feedback have you had from audience members since you started performing Worse Things Happen?
“I think the best feedback was an email I got after an earlier version of the piece I performed at madeinroath festival last year - the person wrote that it "made me feel like someone's finally found the right words for how I've been feeling lately and made me smile about it". I thought then that if I could have that effect on one person then it was worth pushing to make the piece into a full production.”
If someone was considering creating a performance around mental health, what would your advice be?
“Make sure that you're in the right place to make it, health-wise. I've been thinking about making this show for years, but I'm not sure I was ready until now. Make sure you have support, of all kinds - I worked with two amazing collaborators, Lara Ward and Louise Osborn (for help with movement direction and dramaturgy/directorial advice, respectively), and they not only helped me artistically but also were incredible emotional support. I'd say that the flip side of that is also that you need to take care of your collaborators, because asking someone to support you as you travel to some potentially dark places is a big demand. I'd also say, try to get a producer if you can - I'm currently self-producing - as it is a hard slog otherwise.”
Why do you think Wales needs a mental health arts festival?
“I believe strongly that speaking openly about mental health needs to be normalised, and an arts festival goes some way to making that happen. And there appears to be a national conversation happening across the UK, with things like SICK festival in Manchester, The Sick of the Fringe in Edinburgh, and the recent #ItAffectsMe campaign started in London, to name a few, so it's good for Wales to contribute to that.”
Catriona James is an actor and physical performer based in Cardiff. Originally from Canada, and having grown up travelling the world, she trained in acting in London and has gone on to make Cardiff her creative home. In recent years she has worked with Constanza Macras/DorkyPark in Berlin and National Theatre Wales, as well as local companies like Omidaze Productions, Welsh Fargo Theatre Co. and Ffotogallery. She is also a regular performer with Mary Bijou Cabaret & Social Club.