At VAULT Festival 2023, neurodiverse production company ASYLUM and their creative team present an enticing exploration of reality and mental health in SURFACING. Applying new technology to visualise the journey of a young therapist with a repressed past, this production offers a beautiful and thrilling blend of theatre and immersive technology with motion sensors, responsive video design, and dialogue portraying the several realities we navigate through.
When highly rational and grounded Luc, played by Rosie Gray (Old Bridge, The Bush Theatre, Papatango; Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here, Royal Exchange/UK tour; Julius Caesar, Bristol Old Vic), is thrown off kilter by her new patient Owen, played by Daniel Rainford (When Darkness Falls, UK tour; Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied Tunisia, Almeida Theatre; Private Peaceful, Nottingham Playhouse and UK tour), she embarks upon a spiralling journey of intrusive thoughts, haunting characters and terrifying possibilities. Following Luc’s attempts to stabilise her battling realities, SURFACING conveys a poignant narrative of struggling to reach the surface when plummeted into a new and vivid world.
Written by Papatango Prize winner Tom Powell and informed by thought-provoking first-hand accounts and research from Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) experts, SURFACING provides a critical insight into the physical and emotional battles combated behind the scenes in therapy. Directed by Royal Theatrical Support Trust’s Sir Peter Hall Award winner Stephen Bailey, this production champions under-represented topics and artists, with the team and cast including a diverse range of disabled and neurodivergent creatives, standing in line with ASYLUM Art’s mission to represent neurodivergence and disability within the arts. Powell and Bailey are joined by Ben Glover (Paradis Files, Graeae; Little Bits of Ruined Beauty, Pentabus & Everyday, Deafinitely Theatre) and David Denyer (Offie Nominated for The Coral, The Finborough), and includes original design concept by TK Hay (An Adventure, Bolton Octagon [Linbury Prize for Stage Design 2019 and The Stage Debut Award 2022]; Constellations, Stephen Joseph Theatre; The Apology, Arcola) for a fresh perspective on reality.
Writer Tom Powell says, In SURFACING we wanted to show severe mental health crises as they’re rarely seen – not tragic-as-default but vivid, thrilling, surprising, and certainly not something that gets ‘fixed’. This piece is a labour of love, four years in the making, working with an incredibly talented group of artists and some amazing technology. I’ve never worked so closely and so collaboratively this early on in the process. This project is a testament to the team – and the thought of bringing it to stage kept me going through the long and lonely winter lockdowns.
Director Stephen Bailey says, As a neurodivergent person, I wanted to make a show that doesn’t treat mental health & neurodifference as a failing, that acknowledges the harm of social stigma, and that protests the fast-declining state of public mental health care. I’m proud to do so on SURFACING with incorporated access and (reflecting ASYLUM’s mission) multiple D/deaf, disabled & neurodivergent team members.