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
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 I can’t help thinking that masculinity and a perhaps out of date understanding of what is to be male still lingers in our culture.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.