In the picture Eloise Jones and Georgia Imrie from the cast of Dissociated.
Last week I met with psychotherapist, writer, director and friend Dave Bain, to learn more about his new play Dissociated. It opens in London from October 15th for two weeks at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. Tickets are available here.
When I asked Dave how he would describe the play he called it 'an immersive musical adventure into the protagonist's dreams'. The title also refers to dissociation, a very common survival strategy for people who have experienced trauma.
SLR: 'Where did you get your inspiration for Dissociated?'
DB: 'It was through working with survivors of CSA (childhood sexual abuse), both at the Maytree and at One in Four. I could see the impact those experiences have on an individual's life. I also wanted to show what the recovery process can be like.'
SLR: 'I am really interested in how you have chosen to use creativity to tell this story, in a way to transform the experience of something so painful and little talked about like experiences of trauma and dissociation.'
DB: 'Yes, I find it really rewarding using creativity to tell stories about mental health issues. For example, music and song can evoke a range of bodily sensations. - It can communicate to an audience at a feeling level.'
SLR: 'Can you tell us a bit more about the main character in the story?'
'Dissociated tells the story of Alex, a high achieving female surgeon. Throughout the first half of the story she avoids engaging with her trauma, sometimes through drinking and overworking. However, when you understand what she has been through, this is completely reasonable. The story takes place in Alex's dreams.'
SLR: 'That's an interesting choice. Why in her dreams?'
DB: 'It allows an audience to engage with what happened, but also maintain some distance, in the same way Alex does.'
SLR: 'What does dissociation look like for Alex?'
DB: 'We can see how she switches off when things get too much, and sometimes that means withdrawing into her imagination. During the play Alex meets five different versions of herself in her dreams, and we discover how this helps her recovery process. But I don't want to spoil the ending!'
SLR: 'That's very intriguing. In my work, I work a lot with dissociated parts or ego-states and with helping the wise adult in the person to look after these trauma related parts. You mention the different versions of herself that Alex meets, is this a hint to this type of parts work and to experiences of different alters like with people diagnosed with DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder or OSDD, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder?'
DB: 'It is and it isn't. We all have these different parts. Everybody dissociates, but it's the extent to which we do it that's important. Survivors tend to find themselves at the more extreme end of the spectrum.'
SLR: 'What advice would you give to someone who may have experienced CSA or other trauma in childhood?'
'First of all, if you are coming to see the show, to be mindful of triggers and of how it could affect you. It very much depends on where you are in your process. Think of what support you would have in case something gets stirred up.
One in Four are an excellent charity that offers support and resources for survivors. Their resources workbook 'The Warrior Within' has some practical tips and advice on how to manage yourself on a day to day basis.
Also everyone's path is unique. You need to know when you are ready, but when you are, having some psychotherapy or trauma therapy can be really powerful. Some people also value attending therapy or peer groups with other survivors to reclaim that sense of community that the trauma has sometimes taken away.'
Dave has worked in theatre for twenty years and runs Skitzoid Productions, a company who explore mental health issues with immersive storytelling. This is his second play, the first one being 'Game over', a musical game show on the theme of suicide.
I very much look forward to seeing Dissociated first hand in October, as this promises to be a really interesting creative adventure into the experience of trauma recovery using the medium of story, theatre and song.
If you would like to read more about dissociation, you might want to try the post on dissociation on my blog. You can also find more information on the play here, or more about Skitzoid Productions and on social media, Twitter or Instagram.