My main performance work was always music – bass guitar and singing – which after I studied dance, evolved into fairly surreal live art.
Get Therapy started out as a ten minute multi-media piece with no dialogue, called Mad, which I created while an MA student at CSM, with content generated from interviews discussing depression, anti-depressants, labelling, and psychotherapy, and reading psychotherapists such as Carl Rogers, R.D.Laing and Irving Yalom.
The only spoken words in the show were edits from recorded interviews, which I embedded in soundscapes (some of which you can hear on the soundtrack CD of the show). People's voices when sharing experiences can be very emotive and telling.
I felt I had important messages to transmit, and was surprised to learn that though Mad created an emotional response, audiences had no idea what I was trying to say! My course tutor suggested I start using dialogue – as a keen writer I ran with the idea.
I used dialogue in another show, developing a signature mixed-genre format – then re-visited Mad. After some false starts I gained Arts Council funding to research and develop it into a longer work including dialogue, called Danielle Imara's Insane.
Funding gave me the means to run research workshops, where people candidly shared feelings and deep experiences. Testimonies from a dramatically underfunded Mental Health drop-in centre, SpeakUpCiC in Margate, were particularly moving. In interviews, Mental Health professionals also shared feelings about their work and client relationships.
Verbatim dialogue is often more interesting than anything you can make up; it's sometimes strange and often powerful. So I ensured all were willing to have their words used in that way.
Now I had to make a show. Using dialogue meant I couldn't hide behind the vagueness of projections and music, and I decided to tell it like it is, no holds barred!
Compared to some, my mental health history isn't dramatic, so I've used my personal story of long term anti-depressant use and group therapy as a way of introducing other people's stories, which include suicide attempts, Electric Shock Therapy, being diagnosed as bipolar, being sectioned and more. Weaving verbatim dialogue into the show created engaging narratives of real-life stories.
I drew on my experience of group therapy, and the Get Therapy characters are hybrids of people I've interviewed, known or been in therapy with – and of course each actor brings to the role an ingredient that's beautifully unique.
Research and Development (R&D) ended with two very successful scratch shows and plenty of audience feedback. One response that sticks in my mind was that my costume wasn't right. They wrote “I do understand Danielle is trying to represent someone with low self-esteem via her outfit, but . . .” LOL! I actually thought I looked pretty good . . .
Next I had to navigate the unfamiliar world of tour-booking, and after getting radio silence from theatres all over the UK I was advised that the title Danielle Imara's Insane might be off-putting as it sounded like I was, well - maybe a little difficult! So Get Therapy was born.
The Bread and Roses Theatre is the opening night of an 8 date UK tour, with a partially new cast (newcomers Victoria Jeffrey and Matt Ian Kelly have joined me and original R&D actors Paul Codman and Sabrina Laurison), and director James Haddrell is injecting the show with inspired new ideas, so that I'm still being surprised by it, and I think you will be too.
- Danielle Imara
Get Therapy is on at The Bread & Roses Theatre for one-night-only on 20th November 2017.