DO YOU EXPECT ME TO TALK? (Installation)
Between January and August 2012, with funding from Leicester's Curve Theatre, Cognito launched their debut project, 'Do You Expect Me to Talk?', a project aiming to challenge mental health stigma and encourage discussions on the topic. After a period of research and development, Cognito collaborated with designer Kate Unwin to produce an interactive installation piece which was placed in an empty shop space in Leicester.
The installation featured a number of young actors from Leicester and surrounding areas, all with a variety of theatrical experience. After undergoing a short series of intensive workshops with director Jude Taylor, the company collaboratively devised performance work based on a range of scenarios - such as a conversation between a doctor and patient.
The installation consisted of these mini devised performances, which could be 'visited' by audience members, a short film 'station', and a noticeboard where anonymous contributions, ideas and thoughts on mental health issues could be left by audiences once they had finished visiting the installation, in the form of post-it notes. Contributions ranged from messages of encouragement, personal stories and shocking statistics.
The installation was firstly located in a space in the Odeon Arcade in Leicester before relocating to the Curve Theatre for a day.
Photos by Liam Murphy.
DO YOU EXPECT ME TO TALK? (Performance)
Following the success of the DYEMTT? Installation work in Leicester, Cognito were awarded further funding from O2's Think Big Scheme in September 2012 to further develop the work of the project. Working with a talented team of undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Leeds and the University of York, the company took the anonymous contributions and feedback received through the original installation work to produce a series of original monologues and duologues, which were then presented at stage@leeds at the University of Leeds in 2013, and then with a separate cast of young people in Leicester as part of the first Upstairs at the Western season in April 2013. The monologues and duologues frankly discussed topics such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, and teenage depression, all based on the stories sourced through contributions.
“Together with fantastic acting and direction, the entire performance was a spectacle, not only of entertainment, but of necessity.” – Lippy Magazine, Feb 2013
“This production managed to strip the topic of all its grey drabness and replace it with a kind of promising hope.” – Leeds Student, Feb 2013
Photography by Pete Freeth (Leeds) and Briony Latter (Leicester).
WHOSE GENDER IS IT ANYWAY?
In August 2016, Cognito started a new piece of work engaging with young transgender people in Leeds, supported by a Leeds Pride 2016 community grant.
Through a closed drama workshop, we worked with members of the local trans community to identify issues that are important to them, and supported them to share their own stories and experiences through devising and storytelling activities.
We then anonymously shared some of these and summarise the themes explored through the creation and presentation of a small, portable installation art piece, which was showcased to the public at the end of the Leeds Pride 2016 weekend in the Leeds City Museum.
The 'Whose Gender?' project has also previously involved delivery of training and workshops to staff at Leeds University (please see below).
WORKSHOPS, TRAINING AND EDUCATION
The Cognito People are particularly experienced in developing and facilitating workshops, training and education in a range of settings.
After training and support from Leicester's Curve Theatre in 2012, alongside our 'Do You Expect Me to Talk?' project in Leicester, we first developed our own range of workshops exploring mental health stigma, and promoting the importance of emotional wellbeing. A number of these were theatre-in-education sessions delivered through primary and secondary schools, others were sessions specifically for young actors that also looked at developing devising and performance skills.
Overall, we have facilitated workshops for a range of young people between the ages of 9 and 25; from PSHE-related work for primary school pupils, to devising sessions with both undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Leeds and University of York.
We have also worked with healthcare professionals and delivered training through Associate Development Solutions and the national CYP IAPT programme improving CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services), to explore mental health stigma and discrimination with these groups, as well as exploring how professionals in mental health services can engage and involve young service users in participating in service development work, through using simple performance and workshop facilitation techniques.
In 2014 we began to develop our first series of performance workshops on transgender awareness for professionals who work with young people, offering informative and interactive sessions through a new project entitled 'Whose Gender Is It Anyway?'.
For more information on our workshop and educational work, or to discuss how we might be able to work with you, please get in contact.
In early 2014, Cognito collaborated with the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, Headlong Theatre and the national charity YoungMinds to produce an interactive theatrical installation piece for young people, linked to Headlong and Anya Weiss' production of Spring Awakening, based on Frank Wedekind's original play.
Spring Awakening tells the story of a group of teenagers forced to grow up too fast, and struggling with sex, relationships, schoolwork and stress. The character of Moritz in particular struggles greatly academically and falls behind, is under pressure from his parents to do well, and is embarrassed and troubled by his inexperience in sex and relationships. Under the weight of these pressures, Moritz resorts to drastic measures. The Cognito installation linked these issues highlighted by the play to the YoungMinds Vs campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of the struggles young people face and the impact they have on young people's mental health - with elements of the campaign including school stress, sexual pressures and bullying.
In his first role with Cognito as an associate artist, Patrick Hands led the design work of the installation, which aimed to put audience members in Moritz's shoes, letting them visit his bedroom desk as well as experience a surreal 'garden of Gethsemane' scene. The installation concluded with a sinister, deserted version of Moritz's bedroom, where young audience members could contribute thoughts and ideas by writing directly onto his wall, becoming part of the installation itself.