One Under – The Vaults until 21st February

One Under – The Vaults


By Liz Dyer 

Why is it so hard to talk about our mental health? Why is it we can openly tell our friends when we’ve got a headache, or an upset stomach (well, maybe), but find it so difficult to confess that we’re having a bad day, or that we spent last night in tears for no obvious reason? And what if we’re secretly terrified that there might be something wrong with us, but we don’t know how to begin asking someone for help?

These are the questions Amy Fleming asks of both herself and her audience during her solo show, One Under. Amy’s father committed suicide when she was a child, and ever since she’s wondered about what he thought and felt at that moment, and whether she might have inherited that tendency herself – but she’s never been able to talk about it until now. One Under is a brave and deeply personal show, in which Amy shares some of her experiences, but also encourages audience members to open up and join in the conversation.

This interactive format, directed by Natalie Scott, takes us through a series of games, using a light-up hopscotch grid, in which each right answer moves us a step closer to winning. Here’s the twist, though: the right answers are usually obvious (you’re feeling down and someone asks you what’s wrong – do you tell them or just laugh it off?) but we’re asked to answer honestly, and though we know what we should be saying, the fact is that often the right thing isn’t what most people would actually do. And it’s this, along with the fact that many of the questions are far too complex for a straight yes or no answer, that sparks some interesting discussions. Unsurprisingly, it emerged that many of us – and in the spirit of honesty, I include myself in this – are afraid to talk about mental health, either for fear of being judged ourselves, or of not having the right words to help someone else.

In addition to the games, Amy’s energetic and often very funny performance combines personal storytelling (regularly detaching herself from her own memories by using the third person) with brief, simplified scientific explanations about genetics and the way the brain works. Together they lend weight to the theory that though it’s possible we’re born with certain dispositions, we don’t have to be ruled by them – there are things we can do to change the direction our lives are taking, and the first of these is to open up and talk about things.

It’s a conclusion we’ve probably all heard before, but probably never quite like this. One Under delivers the message in a memorable, entertaining and interactive way that brings a room full of strangers together; it almost feels like the whole audience should go for a drink together afterwards and carry on bonding.

Of course mental health is a vastly complex issue that isn’t going to be solved in one 50-minute solo show. But we have to start somewhere, and this inspiring show, from a performer who’s courageous enough to lead by example, encourages us to go away and take that first simple step, so that at least the subject can become open for discussion.

One Under – The Vaults


By Liz Dyer

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