Vici Wreford-Sinnott’s production The Art Of Not Getting Lost explores our attitude to mental health issues through two main protagonists: Everyone and No-one who have made their home in the hidden tunnels of London’s Bakerloo Station. Aidan Moesby saw a performance at the Northern Stage in Newcastle on 26 June
As is common these days in theatre, the show has already started when the audience arrive to take their seats. The two characters, Everyone and No-one, are at work within the fictional Lost Property Office they've created within the London Underground.
The show sets out with a clear agenda. It is definitely about mental health and the stigma attached to it. Perhaps for me it is not so much about ‘not getting lost’ and more about ‘how to find yourself’ or put yourself together - piece by piece.
The show is scattered with references: Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and Beckett. Then there are the more matter of fact and palpable references to the holocaust - the disabled being the forgotten victims of the atrocities. The filing cabinets of the set are moved and used as projection screens as images of nameless victims carousel.
‘Lost’ and ‘found’ are turned to time and again as motifs throughout the piece, both people and objects and the common thread of memory. As a child we have transitional objects, which keep us psychologically safe as we negotiate the unknown – the comfort blanket, the dodo. As we age these objects become more sophisticated. But what of those anonymous objects: the lost shoe, the child's teddy bear in a puddle of water, after a natural disaster or war. Who within the family owned it? How did they live? What are their untold stories? The audience is directly propositioned to meditate on this. The Lost Property Office is both metaphor and conceit.
Each of us has potential to be one thing or another – from being unemployed in a high rise to being a surgeon, but for choice and circumstance.
Do we let life ride rough shod over us as a passive audience or do we take a pro-active role in constructing our own worlds. How does one persons’ construct affect another? And beyond our relationship to ourselves what about our relationship to our (the) world and those within it?
Whenever there are two people there is a dynamic; the behaviour within the relationship is both overt and covert – all of which is learned behaviour. Within Everyone and No-one there is clearly one in a crisis, but whose needs are really being met?
The Art Of Not Getting Lost raises broader issues of authenticity and honesty within a climate of fear. How open ‘should’ we be about our own mental health – if at all? Do we collude with the stigma by being silent?
There is no denying Vici Wreford Sinnott is an accomplished writer and knows her craft and the actors, Ree Collins and Eleanor Crawford, more than meet the challenge of the characters.
The Art of Not Getting Lost is a dense multi-layered treatise exploring the position of mental health through a contemporary cultural context. There was the lack of a stage, a slight hint of feminism, mysterious hand-delivered letters, a serious case of hoarding and efforts to make order out of the chaos. All this seems like pretty ‘normal’ everyday kind of stuff, but I don’t subscribe to ‘normalisation’, within mental health critical dialogues because of everything it implicitly implies.
I didn’t set out writing this to pose more questions. I wanted to review the show with cultural references and witty one-liners - but I too seem to have got lost.