Community Media/MASRAH History/
Masrah was approached by Basic Needs to perform and depict the various symptoms of a few Mental Illness’s at the “Basic Needs International Training Programme for CBR Workers” held at the United Theological College in April 2007.
As a group we focused more on the process rather than the product , as we were venturing into something totally new to us , a lot of research was put into understanding the different illness’s/ disorders in respect to the symptoms, case-studies and the psychology of it. There were a lot of questions that arose during the research process for a lot of the characteristics of one illness clashed with other illness’s and whether one might presume they have most of the symptoms as we at some point of time go through all those emotions, etc.
But once it was taken to the floor things got clearer. We did not focus on dialogue but more on rhythm, gibberish, expressions and movement. The mental illness’s we were asked to depict were, namely:
(i) Schizophrenia (ii) Depression (iii) Bipolar Depression (iv) OCD ( Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) (v) Epilepsy
Enter walking slowly with blank expressions, then as steps increase the five people become an entangled mass and break away.
After which each individual walks in turn by turn depicting a certain symptom of the disorder, characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. And also manifesting auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking, in the context and they form a circle and move around slowly recapping each characteristic of schizophrenia.
One main character and four people (acting as mirrors).
The individual faces away from the audience and looks at the four mirrors which are in a semi-circular formation.
He faces each mirror one by one and converses with it, each mirror highlighting a certain symptom/characteristic of depression from being unable to cope with problems or daily activities to feeling helpless, sad, lack of sleep, pessimism, decreased ability to concentrate and extreme anger or hostility.
One main character, two people wearing white masks, two people wearing black masks, other props being a ribbon tied to a stick, drum, rhythm and sound.
The people in the white masks signify the positive/high phase of the depression and the black masks the negative/low phase of the depression. The protagonist using the space goes through the motions which are highlighted by the ribbon and the beats of the drum and the negative phase is just a drone of sound with the ribbon being dragged across and then slowly picks up with the sudden elevated mood changes of the illness.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, here it is manifested in a variety of forms, where the symptoms are shown at its extremes with a crescendo of Lock the door! , Check the door! , Clean the room! , Wash hands! , etc with rhythm and swift robotic movement with blank expressions.
Main prop used is a long jute rope, where everyone is like a machine and moves only on contact with the other and use rhythm, sound and action to connect to the protagonist who is in contact with the machine.
The machine is supposed depict the electrical activity of the brain and how as the protagonist goes through his everyday routine, he experiences a seizure/epileptic shock and thus making the machine lose momentary control over itself during this chemical reaction to the brain.
The whole performance was well received and we were very glad to be a part of such a process and to help other people understand it better and not treat or look at a mental illness as a social stigma.