Image shown: Lysis by Upstate Theatre Project. Still credit: Arcade Films.

Lysis by Upstate Theatre Project will premiere at Drogheda Arts Festival from 3-7 May 2018. Directed by Declan Mallon and based on the writings and testimonies of people living with mental health issues, Lysis is a docudrama that traces the experiences of five individuals.

Lysis definition:
(biology) the disintegration of a cell by rupture of the cell wall or membrane
(medical) the subsidence of one or more symptoms of an acute disease

This audio-visual installation, created with members of Shine mental health support group, is a forthright portrait of people side-lined by society through everyday stigma, prejudice and general ignorance toward mental health. Lysis journeys through psychosis and toward recovery, challenging for the right to be recognised beyond diagnoses. A celebration of the genuine strength of human character.

Inspiration and Process 

The inspiration for Lysis came from audience feedback for its sister project created with Louise Lowe in 2015, ‘The Bell Room’, which was developed through meetings and interviews with nurses and attendants with experience in psychiatric care. The audience, astute as they always are, noticed the absence of the voice of the patients. Upstate’s original ambition was to combine both carers and cared for but on that occasion it simply didn’t materialise.

We initially didn’t know how to address the very simple question, “How does it feel to live with mental health difficulties?” We were anxious about the repercussions (for those who live with mental health difficulties) and fearful of unintentionally causing distress to those who might participate.

Following a series of discussions with various support groups in 2016 we realised that an invitation to those living with mental health issues would be the first step, and with the support of Shine we recruited participants. While the invitation was made to more, five people committed to a process of discovering how an art-making process can speak to their life experience. The process involved developing trust, from finding ways through creative writing and imaginings to share experience, to sharing testimony of the personal journeys each of the five collaborators have found themselves on.

For the audience the challenge is no different to when we began the process: to listen without prejudice and attempt to begin the development of understanding. An understanding that, when reached, will call on us to make demands on ourselves and the structures and implementation of mental health care.

Living will ill mental health can be debilitating, but not hopelessly so. Our stories are not the stuff of melodrama or the misleading caricatures created for fantastic visions of shock entertainment. Ours are the stories of quiet resolve and determination on that journey to gradual recovery: listen without prejudice.

– Declan Mallon

Event details
Dates: Thursday 3 – Monday 7 May
Venue: Barlow House, Narrow West Street
Times: 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm


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