News & Blogs

2 September 2019
Author: Stuart Waters and The Place

"Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness"

In this blog performer and dance maker Stuart Waters reveals the background to his semi-autobiographical show ROCKBOTTOM which is at The Place on Thu 12 Sep.


ROCKBOTTOM is a show inspired by my own story – it’s about falling until you hit rock bottom; a helpless, terrifying plummet to the deepest depths, and the light at the end of the tunnel – the journey back to the surface.

During my recovery in hospital I began my own therapeutic and spiritual journey.  As I thought about my own journey to the bottom I thought more and more about mental health and what it means, what it looks like and, as I looked around me, I became aware of the variety of rockbottoms that surrounded me.  I knew I wanted to make a show about my experience and the title just felt right; in combining my own experience with what was happening to people around me, I wanted to create a show that would contribute to the public conversation around the growing complexities of the issue that everyone is facing.

As a solo show the audience follow my particular journey as a man. I was interested in how I could bring a more universal essence to the show so that the audience have the space to read their own life experiences into the action and words that happen onstage. As a reflective tool I want the audience to experience empathy for what they were witnessing whilst going in and out of their own experience with mental health.

More specifically ROCKBOTTOM presents a vulnerable man; being a man in the context of mental health is alarming and worrying. Although suicide is not a personal experience I wanted to offer a personal nod to this issue.  I have close friends who are trying to live on in the wake of losing meaningful men in their lives and I wanted the show to bring this into the public arena.

Here are some statistics on men’s mental heath from

https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/

  • Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35.
  • 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders.
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women. 
  • Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs.
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women.

It’s hard to know where to begin your thinking on Men and Suicide. WHY? Is the obvious question? I can’t help thinking that masculinity and a perhaps out of date understanding of what is to be male still lingers in our culture. Why are men suffering so silently to the point of breaking?

I can only bring in my experience of being a gay man who did just this. I wanted to be fiercely independent and masculine by dealing with my emotional issues by myself, as a man, as a grown up. It’s not manly to say you’re suffering; are emotions non-masculine, am I less of a man for being overwhelmed by my emotions?

The irony of trying to deal with that for so long and failing, added to the pressure of the shame around everything I was experiencing became too much. Like the statistics above, I ‘died’ from illegal drug use but some how managed to survive…

One thing I am certain of is that art can play a vital role in presenting vulnerability as a strength, not as a weakness. This is how we can, as audiences and communities, come together to re-direct how we perceive ourselves today. Theatre is a wonderful opportunity to re-think, to experience, to discuss, to re-evaluate.


ROCKBOTTOM is at The Place on Thu 12 Sep.

 

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