Live theatre tour to highlight positive mental health care
- Credit: UpShoot Theatre Company
It is often perceived as a period of harsh treatment but uplifting stories of mental health support during the 19th century will be brought to life through live theatre.
Bungay-based UpShoot Theatre Company has teamed up with South Norfolk Council, Norfolk Record Office and the Restoration Trust to tour Dr Hills’ Casebook between February 12 and 20 in venues across Norfolk and North Suffolk.
Local actors will perform experiences of people who experienced care at the former Norfolk County Asylum on Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew during the 1880s.
Information has been gleaned from the notes of Dr William Charles Hills, who was the medical superintendent of the asylum from 1861-1887 and known for his humane approach.
Theatre director, Laila France, said: “The excitement at being able to tell these stories and get in touch with a past that wasn’t as cruel as we are led to believe, has been contagious.”
The production is part of the Change Minds programme which has been running at Norfolk Record Office since 2016 using its collection of records from Norfolk County Asylum which became St Andrew’s Hospital and closed in 1998.
Change Minds was set up by the Restoration Trust, which received a £89,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help disadvantaged people in Norfolk with mental health problems as well as carers and volunteers to research 19th century case records from the former asylum.
MORE: Cash boost for new archive of mental healthProject co-ordinator, Darren France, from UpShoot Theatre Company, said: “Covid-19 has changed the delivery of this project greatly, and some of that change hasn’t been easy. But it is clear that this project is needed right now, when people are feeling anxious and alone, and when we need to look at innovative ways to ensure better mental health for everyone.”
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It has taken two years of research and has involved around 11 people to bring the production together which was led by Richard Johnson, who joined the Change Minds project in 2018 and was attracted to the leadership of Dr Hills.
Belona Greenwood, who wrote the play, said: “Incredible history and stories exist in our community that need to be told.”