Scratching the Surface 2019

A dramatherapist goes to the theatre to see some short plays and then muses on the therapeutic lives of the characters. #Dramatherapy #Theatre #UnDisposables #ScratchingtheSurface #Newwriting

Last month I wrote about directing the play Trixie as part of the UnDisposables Scratching the Surface. Come performance night and I got to proudly watch the three actor (and a dog) cast bring the piece to life under the stage lights.


Written by HJ Hampson
Directed by Amy Louise Mackay Willshire
Katerina Tinnirello-Savvas as Sarah,
Tommy Love as Max,
Alexander Ballinger as Pete,
Brora Willshire as Trixie

But our short scene was just part of the night of varied entertainment of eight different one act plays. I wanted to shine a light on three other plays (although all 8 were fantastic) and pick out some themes with a relevance to dramatherapy.

No Place for the Fainthearted by Andrew Willshire

This play explores the life of three people who have exceptionally long lives. What would it mean to outlive partners, friends, children, grandchildren… Where would they find a sense of joy and humour? How could they continue to go about their life without attracting too much attention? How do you react when you find out you are not the only one and that there may still be several hundred years ahead of you.

No Place for the Faint Hearted

In Greek Mythology there are immortal gods and goddesses and mortal people. The immortals are are not very moral, they cheat, betray each other, turn against family members, steal, break promises; whereas the mortals have to be moral to please and appease the gods. But there is also a more direct link between morality and mortality – if you only have a set time to live there is a desire or need to make it a good life – to leave an impression once you are gone, if you always have time in future to make amends then there are less consequences for short term immorality. To put it another way ” I understand that though the fact (the physicality) of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us. This is old wisdom’ (Yalom, 1999, p.115) We see this idea played with in the play, particularly the character of John who is bad tempered, prone to pranks and rudeness.

Written by Andrew Willshire
Directed by Katerina Tinnirello-Savvas
Michael Seaman as John, 
Roger Conneff as Arnold, 
Harriet Earle as Morag, 
Michelle Hudson as Julie

Are you going to leave me? By Grace Bouchard

Amy, an English girl and Mihai, a Romanian boy began dating on the night of the referendum, now a week (maybe) before Brexit day they are arguing. As the country moves closer to the departure from Europe, the characters explore their identity, their feelings of belonging, their aspirations for the future and their duty to build a world they are proud to live in. Can their relationship survive the national divorce?

Are You Going to Leave Me?

Sometimes politics is boring, sometimes it is important, sometimes it is deeply personal. The play made me think about Place Attachment. In the Brexit debate we have heard remainers called “citizens of nowhere” while Brexiteers belong to specific local community so therefor feel British. During the referendum, Leave.EU’s main argument was around the “swarm” of immigration into the UK and since becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May has focused on ending free movement as one of the primary red lines from which to negotiate her deal. But what if your own place attachment is to both this UK place where you have studied and live with your love and also to an EU place where you grew up and where your family and friends still are. How does the political narrative then impact on your sense of self and belonging? Being rooted in a community is important, but losing site of how we are connected to others is not useful for our wider healing.

“Those who are not able to keep a good image of things lost inside themselves find change, even everyday or routine changes, very difficult. Without a sense of inner security, change can feel like disorganisation and disintegration. It can seem like an attack on one’s identity.”

Greenhalgh, P. (1994). Emotional Growth and Learning. London: Routledge.

Written and directed by Grace Bouchard
Chloe Wade as Amy,
Alexander Ballinger as Mihai

The Care Act by Peter Ramsey

Amanda is a clinical psychologist tasked with finding out why Trudy has been killing patients at the care home she works at as a cleaner. Is it a mercy killing to end their suffering and stop their slow loss of self? Is it for the benefit of the families, staff and other patients as ending their screaming can return peace to the ward? Is it acting out what she wished she could have done when her own mother had dementia? Is it for the fame and notoriety? Is she mad or is she bad? Whatever the reason, why did she think it was her decision to make?

The Care Act

The play explored this with dynamic characters circling around different answers. The mad-bad balance was particularly interesting to me. While in the play it was the clinical psychologist who had to decide if Trudy was mad or bad, I have found when working as a dramatherapist that this is something some of my clients wrestle with about themselves. I am not sure either are helpful in therapy – madness is often a label to pathologise clients who have been forced into extreme coping strategies by trauma, neglect and adverse experiences. Badness is a way to shame and judge. There is always the ethics of good and bad – is something good or bad in itself (e.g. murder is wrong) or good because of its outcome (e.g. euthanasia is sometimes compassion)? How would society be if we were less judgemental of bad and mad, and more supportive of peoples journey towards healing.

Written by Peter Ramsey
Directed by Michael Cummings
Michelle Hudson as Trudy,
Caspian Emerald Cunningham as Amanda

All photographs by Sebastian Jay Simpson-Bandidin and his company:


Have your say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


* indicates required
Sign up for my own mental health *
Sign up as a parent or carer *
Sign up as a professional *

Social Media

Latest posts



On Key

Related Posts

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Neglect, Preoccupied or Anxious Attachment and control

If a child’s needs are not met in the early years they are likely to develop low self-esteem and to learn to be controlling or manipulative in relationships with others. This can include friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships and professional relationships.

Child violence and brain changes in puberty

The brain changes during adolescence can make us moody, impulsive and emotional. It’s also a phase when we rebel against our parents and conform with our peers. Would these changes make teenagers violent?

Scared of my child

Child to parent violence affects one in ten families and there was an increase in police reports during lockdown. What is this hidden side of domestic abuse?