This is a guest post by Sophie from OneWomanWestEndShow.
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A battle with mental health, no matter how big or small, is challenging to say the least. Mental health issues can arise in the forms of depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders and so many others. If you struggle with mental health, you’ve probably read articles before on how a good diet, exercise, sleep and surrounding yourself with positive vibes are helpful.
While the above things are all steps to take for self-care, we’ve heard them all before.
Theatre blogger, OneWomanWestEndShow is here to tell you why going to the theatre can be a great thing for your mental health and self-care.
- Theatre is Escapism
“Where better to escape trouble than the theater?” – Miss Medda Larkin
This quote is said from one of the leading ladies in the musical Newsies, and it couldn’t be truer. Theatre truly is a genre for everyone and therefore can offer a real sense of escapism. If you like Disney, why not check out The Lion Kingto capture your imagination or Matildato inspire the child within you. If horror is your thing, try Little Shop of Horrorsfor a man-eating plant – something you (hopefully) don’t see all the time! Or if you want romance to sweep you off your feet, An American In Pariswill do just that.
In the theatre you have to let your imagination take you somewhere else, and this can be a really good distraction for those who struggle with mental health. Let yourself relax and be transported for an hour or two and enjoy a show.
- Theatre is relatable
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde
This quote from Oscar Wilde demonstrates that human beings can share emotions and feelings when in the theatre. What you may not be aware of, is that modern theatre shows explore themes of mental health, making characters easily relatable and letting you know that it’s okay to be who you are.
Dear Evan Hansenfollows the story of an incredibly socially anxious teenage boy and his struggles to cope with everyday life. Fun Homeis a musical based on the true story of Alison Bechdel as she comes to terms with her homosexuality and her father’s suicide, and Be More Chillon Broadway is heavily rooted in themes of modern anxiety.
There are songs in musicals that those who suffer with mental health will relate to as if someone had taken the words right out of your mouth, and the characters may as well be you, with the traits they share. Remind yourself it’s okay not to be okay, and so many others are also in your situation.
- it is stimulating
“To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred area of the imagination” – Charles Dickens
Dickens summarises here that theatre is a stimulating and exciting place to be. I challenge anyone to not be excited when they enter the auditorium of a theatre, see those classic red curtains and velvet seats.
The magic that is created in theatre today, with impressive sets and costumes, lighting and technical designs is something to be awed, and is a hugely stimulating activity. It’s important to keep your brain stimulated when struggling with mental health, and while many other activities such as baking a cake, reading a book, going for a walk, are great – none are going to be as stimulating as watching a theatre show.
Going to the theatre is also an activity that gets you out of the house. When struggling with depression, for example, sufferers can often lose motivation to do usual tasks, but going to the theatre is something that will (hopefully) get you up, out and feeling like yourself.
- Theatre is for everyone
“There is no hierarchy in theatre. It makes everyone part of a collective” – Lee Hall
You might not believe me initially and that’s okay, but let me explain. Theatre is no longer just for the rich and posh. Many theatres in and across the UK have schemes to get people from all walks of life interested in theatre. These schemes can sometimes include discounted tickets if you are of a certain age, financial status or other reasons.
Theatre genres are truly wide and cover a huge amount of social and political topics, as well as being light-hearted entertainment. London’s Everybody’s Talking About Jamie puts drag queens in the spotlight, whilst the play Mouthpiece looks at class and social differences between two characters, and Aladdin is just fun for all the family!
Theatre is wholly inclusive and promotes actors and characters who are from ethnic and sexual minorities, so no matter how you identify, the theatre is a safe space for you and would welcome you with open arms.
- Try something new!
“We must all do theatre to find out who we are, and discover who we could become” – Augusto Boal
I am very passionate that everyone should try going to the theatre. As has previously been said, theatre genuinely is an artform for everyone, no matter your taste in genre, financial situation or geographical location, theatre is upcoming in its accessibility and there is no reason not to try it.
I believe it is truly great to be passionate about something, anything, that will potentially give you a hobby and something to invest in. The theatre world is a huge community with arms open wide, willing everyone to be a part of it. Theatre fans can connect through social media to find others who have the same passion as you, and this gives you the chance to meet and make friends who you wouldn’t usually engage with!
Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is always a hard thing to do, particularly if you suffer from anxiety, depression or any other form of mental health. But the outcome can be worth it if you gain something from it.
Try the theatre, you might love it!