I didn’t set out one day to write about mental health issues facing young people. The feeling crept up over months, years perhaps, with a certain sense of inevitability. So many teens I spoke with were living on the fringe, that netherworld between perception and reality, struggling to cope with pressure at school and home, fueled by the false ideals revered on social media.
Writing eight interconnected monologues on a range of mental health issues wasn’t easy. The monologues don’t purport to be authoritative or prescriptive and the voices could be anyone’s; there is no one account of ‘depression’ to be written, for example. Each story is as distinct and unique as the person who inhabits it.
The scriptwriting process was kickstarted in late 2016 when I won the MPS Travel+Tours Award, Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation, though it was not until a year later that I felt ready to tackle the script. The monologues benefited from dramaturgy from a number of sources — James Hartley, Upper Crass Productions in Sydney (who is directing a production of Fragments at the Pioneer Theatre in Castle Hill on 14-17 November); Rochelle Whyte at Ainslie+Gorman Arts Centres; and Suzanne Ingelbrecht, a playwright/director/teacher in Perth. Caroline Stacey, CEO of the Street Theatre in Canberra, also provided great feedback and ongoing support
With support from the ACT Government, Fragments benefited from an intensive creative development (5-8 October 2018) at Ainslie+ Gorman Arts Centres in Canberra. The aim was to interrogate the intentions and of the monologues as individual pieces and as part of a unified work, to allow actors to inhabit the world of the characters and explore how their worlds connect, along with key questions relating to survival: What does it take for us to recognise ourselves in each other? How can we reach others whose despair places them seemingly out of reach? Where do we find, and how do we cultivate, the capacity to claw through adversity and choose life when it would be so easy to give up?
I was thrilled to explore Fragments as part of the development process, led by dramaturg, Gin Savage and a team of enthusiastic young actors. It was an intense and emotional, but rewarding, experience and a valuable process that will support the future development and production of the work. I’m grateful for the time and feedback offered by the small and diverse audience who attended a rehearsed reading of the work at the end of the development:
Your writing of the monologues is honest and believable with a perfect balance between serious tones and uplifting humour. I was on the edge of my chair during some parts of the reading and felt emotional when l left the room. – MB
One thing I took away was that I personally should ask people if they are ok more often (not just on RUOK day) – sometimes asking the question can be enough to break through someone’s walls. – MF
This is a very valuable piece to start conversations amongst young people, parents and teachers. It is easy to identify with at least a little bit of each character. -KL
Maura, I was very impressed with your work both the beautiful use of language and the whole project itself. I’m sure there is a place in schools (and for lots of parents!!!) to watch and ponder. Can’t wait to see the next stage of production. – PD