Written and directed by Jeremy Weller, ‘Mad’ featured nine women who, amongst others, had replied to a newspaper advert and offered to tell their experiences of mental illness. The cast were supported by two male professional actors and the production also featured a female caretaker and an ex-soldier.
Developed with the help and advice of the then General Manager of the Mental Health Service and a psychologist, ‘Mad’ explored the experiences of its cast members and through those questioned society’s vision of madness. The stage was empty bare twelve chairs, eleven of which were placed in a semi-circle facing the audience. The twelfth chair, the Director’s chair, was placed with its back to the audience. The audience was seated on the same sort of chairs, level with the stage.
“To see moments from my life, up on stage, being played out in front of my very own eyes was the most theraputic experience of my life…being in the play helped me to feel like a human being again.”
Sarah Kane (Playwright) said that seeing Jeremy Weller’s work changed her life. Sarah was asked: How much influence do your think your plays can have in terms of changing society’s perceptions and actions? Her answer:
“I’ve seen one piece of theatre that changed my life – Jeremy Weller’s Mad. It changed my life because it changed me – the way I think, the way I behave or try to behave. If theatre can change lives, then by implication it can change society, since we’re all part of it. I also think it’s important to remember that theatre is not an external force action on society, it’s part of it, a reflection of the way people within that society view the world. Slasher movies don’t create a violent society (though they may well perpetuate it), they’re a product of that society. Films, books, theatre, they all represent something which already exists, even if only in someone’s head and through that representation they can change or reinforce what they describe” (Sarah Kane quoted in Stephenson and Langridge, 1997:133). Stephenson, H and Langridge, N. (1997) Rage And Reason: Women Playrights on Playwriting. Bloomsbury, London.)
Report on play MAD by Dr. Halla Beloff, Former Chair of Social Psychology, Edinburgh University
“While I believe that theatre can present powerful ‘messages’ of a social-political kind in fiction drama, there is a special power when the protagonists are played by themselves.This does not mean that anyone standing on a stage telling their story will have a powerful effect. Jeremy Weller is obviously a brilliant dramaturge-editor-director who finds just the right people and then supports them in a constructive style, both theatrically and surely also personally. My evidence for the latter delicate role is that they stay the course, often over months. more…“
Siobhan Dolan talks to Jeremy Weller about his play, Mad, in which women who have suffered from mental illness recreate scenes from their past.
“YOU HAVE to have felt as much as we have to connect with us . . . this is all about feeling . . . 100 per cent,’ pleads a young woman in the disturbing climax to Jeremy Weller’s latest play, Mad, currently at the Leith Theatre. Mad is the final part of a trilogy which has involved the homeless (Glad, 1990), young offenders (Bad, 1991) and now women with a history of mental illness, telling their real-life stories. more