Understanding the Context: Echo Productions comes to Newfoundland, with new show displaying the effects of Mental Illness
In today’s world, people are faced with the effects of mental illness in many different ways; whether it be directly, having to maneuver their way through life with an element of difficulty, or by the illness of a close family member or friend, mental illness shows it’s ugly face in all of our lives. Luckily, our society has done a lot of work in helping to erase the stigma that comes along with being mentally ill.
Despite this, many people believe that because the illness cannot be seen, it does not have the same detrimental effects as a disease like cancer. There are many ways to help bring the reality of mental illness to light, which help others better understand it, including art, poetry, and of course, theatre. Context, a play written by Adrian Yearwood, produced by a Toronto based theatre company, Echo Productions, shows what it is like to be living within these conditions, focusing on what it’s like living in silence.
Echo Productions is a Toronto based theatre company started by Newfoundlander Victoria Fuller in 2012, and since has boomed in the Toronto indie theatre scene. Yearwood stated that Echo’s mandate is two-fold:
“First, to bring socially relevant, politically charged work to a generation of young Canadians who don’t generally view live theatre as a viable medium of visual entertainment. Second, to provide a platform for young theatre artists who feel underrepresented in the Canadian commercial theatre industry to express their artistry on stage.”
This is not Echo Productions first time in Newfoundland. They were here in 2017 with their show Bonnie and Clyde as a part of the LSPU Halls Presentation Series. They are returning to be a part of this year's series as well with their new show Charlie: Son of Man. The company decided to bring along Context in their return, after its success in the Rendezvous With Madness Festival. This show, along with their other original productions push theatre boundaries and tear down the walls on the genre. “We create multidisciplinary performance experiences”, said Yearwood, “fusing text, dance, live music, and projected imagery to hit audiences from every artistic angle possible.”
The goal of Context is to show the many different sides of mental illness, and how it can affect people in many different ways. A large percentage of people struggling with mental illness will not seek help, or be vocal about their struggles, leaving them with an immense amount of weight to bear on their shoulders. By showing this theatrically, it allows people to witness the true struggle that comes with living with a mental illness and perhaps identify with these struggles. “This is one of those shows that forces every audience member to take a hard look at themselves,”. said Yearwood who speaks to the importance of self-reflection in this show, and how we can all connect in some way. “The principal character has been created as a composite of the full spectrum of the human experience to show that we all go through these moments of divided reality in varying degrees. Everyone will find a moment in the show that they relate to on a deeply personal level.” The goal of this show is to start a conversation and to normalize the conversation.
Yearwood said the one phrase that can sum up the entire show is a quote from author Jeannette Winterson, “To be ill-adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown”. Context will put all the pieces together, and show them in a very raw and real way.