This is a guest post by Jake Kenny-Byrne, a member of The Rose Youth Theatre. The Rose Theatre Kingston is part of the Kingston Hub, working with the Kingston Museum on the Peter Brook Outreach Project. The group director is Rosie Jones.
Having only been a member of the Rose Youth Theatre for a year and a half, and in that time participating in many exciting projects from interactive promenade at Hampton Court Palace to performing on a 5 week run on the main stage, this project at the V&A is a new challenge for me as an actor. Our group, ranging from 15 to 19 years old, are undertaking the challenge of devising a response to Peter Weiss’ ‘Marat/Sade’, to commemorate the opening of the Peter Brook Collection at the V&A, and perform it there and at Kingston Museum.
I feel I’ve benefited from the structure of each session, and how everyone’s ideas are treated equally. Having the opportunity to work with a writer who uses them and collates our research into a script is very satisfying. The devised piece about teenage mental health patients putting on a play, means that I have to explore a mental illness physically and externally, but also layer that on top of another character.
My character, Matthews, has Multiple Personality Disorder, which is now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I’ve been researching many documentaries that shed light on the symptoms of the illness. Throughout the sessions and at home, I have been improvising my character’s daily routine in a hospital ward, and this helps me find the truth in the illness; I’m not just dramatising the symptoms and effects of the illness but observing how it affects every-day life. This project has been a new experience in terms of working around a theatrical style I’d never worked on before. It’s made me reflect on the seriousness of mental health in our society today, be more sensitive as an actor as to how to internalise and externalise an illness, and learn the importance of raising awareness of mental health as an ensemble.