COULD LAUGHTER BE THE BEST MEDICINE?
Over the years Hocus Pocus Theatre’s work has been strongly issue based. ‘Like A Tree’ considers the implications of Climate Change and is a gently accessible show about life cycles and death. ‘Clown About Town’ looks at the idea of the outsider. ‘GUILTY PARTY!’ is a highly political and satyrical piece about mass coercion and corruption; ‘Night Magic’ looked at the manipulation and power used for seance by ‘physic mediums’ and ‘Factory of Broken Dreams’ reflected back on local factory industry, comparing it to the modern day implications of how we now work. Never ones to shy away from taboo, our next project looks deeply at mental health and wellbeing.
This new show and the integrated wellbeing project and workshops around it considers the idea of depression prevention though, not cure. What if art and laughter where prescribed on the NHS for happiness enrichment?
When I studied my drama degree nearly 20 years ago now, I researched and wrote about the therapeutic benefits of laughter. It was then that I discovered Clown Doctors and learnt about Patch Adams’ work in hospitals, which at the time I thought sounded like a dream job. After university I worked a variety of jobs from Young Mum’s Support Worker in Great Yarmouth to touring Theatre in Education with GIBBER in the North East. I used my drama skills as a workshop facilitator with hard to reach groups and theatre as a tool for social change. I started Hocus Pocus Theatre in 2008 and wanted to make work that had a similar impact - that made people think; feel and potentially bring about positive change.
After having my daughter and taking some time out on maternity leave I felt compelled to use my skills for something meaningful and so sent my CV to a wonderful local organisation Suffolk Artlink who ran a Hospital Clown project. They weren’t taking anyone on at the time but a year or so later I had the opportunity to audition for them (when I was 7 months pregnant with my second daughter). I got the job and began my training with them while simultaneously coping with the loss of my Mum; a newborn baby and a 2 year old. I had no idea at the time how much those experiences would grow my empathy and understanding of the world and in my work.
Working as a Clown Doctor is now one of the main freelance jobs I have (yes - we theatre people have more than one job - it’s the only way to sustain what we do!). I work regularly for Suffolk Artlink on the Children In Need funded Clown Round project in Children’s Hospitals as Dr Dizzy Daydream and on the Forget Me Not project with older people as Delilah O’Smiler. We also work with East Anglia Children’s Hospice and piloted a project working with families who had escaped domestic violence for Leeway. I have learnt so much from these roles and have the privilege to see first hand through my work, the benefits on health that therapeutic and person-centred work has. Through this role I even found myself at a training session with the man Patch Adams himself and last year and we also attended the Healthcare Clowning International Conference in Vienna for three days last year, with talks and workshops themed ‘The Art of Clowning: Connecting Culture, Health and Science’.
The latest Hocus Pocus Theatre ‘Laughter Matters’ project marries together my two main areas of expertise– the arts and health. It is a very natural progression for me to now integrate my skills, experience and knowledge into a holistic, creative project with a health focus enabling the company to make more meaningful work with social outcomes for artists and audiences. The common theme of the company’s work has always been to use humour and laughter to tackle thought provoking topics and this project will further that by instigating debate and hopefully facilitating change.
With Mental Health affecting 1 in 4 people the topic needs platforms to address this social crisis and find positive, effective and lasting solutions. It will help the company develop community engagement, bringing us closer in dialogue with our audiences, giving you the opportunity to participate; respond to material and have a voice as part of the project.
I have pulled together the most wonderful team of collaborators and this years show ‘FUN CLINIC’ (26th-28th September) aims to use the transformative power of humour and laughter for the benefit of everyone who attends.