Richard Crowe is an actor and writer living and working in Somerset. His production, Over the Wall Picking Apples, is coming to Wells Theatre Festival in July. The play is Richard’s response to a recent diagnosis of bipolar and is both a powerful and comical exploration of life with a mental health problem. He explains why everyone should see Over the Wall Picking Apples.
I won’t bore you with the statistics. By now, we all know about 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health problem at some stage in our lives.
What we don’t know, possibly, is the impact that might have. Not just on us, assuming we’re the sufferer, but on the people we live with – our families, our friends, our colleagues.
They might see us suffer (they might not: some of us are gregarious, natural clowns, very good at putting up barriers, which isn’t helpful). They want to understand, to support, to help. But it’s difficult, isn’t it. How the hell can they know what’s going on in our heads?
I was 54 when the bottom fell out of my world, literally. I spent most of my waking hours thinking of suicide and most of my sleeping hours dreaming about it. Didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to eat. Just wanted to die.
Then, at 56, I was diagnosed with bipolar. Devastating. But also, a relief. At least now I knew I had something. A reason I had felt out of kilter with the world all my life. Something I could Google. Something I could share with my family, my wife. Like statistics, lots of statistics:
80% of people with bipolar will contemplate suicide, 50% will attempt it and 15% will succeed. That’s roughly 30 times higher than for the general population.
The problem was how to make sense of all that. Not just for me, but for my family, my friends. And if I could do that for them, why couldn’t I do it for other people too? For the thousands of people in this country who have first hand experience of living with mental health problems as a sufferer, a carer, a relation or a friend?
I’m a lucky guy. My background is in theatre, as a writer and performer. My duty – and I did see it as such – was very clear. Pick up your pen and write. If you can discuss this with your children, you can discuss it with the world. And that’s what I’m doing with Over the Wall Picking Apples, having an ongoing discussion about mental health, how to cope with it, how to live with it, how to laugh at it.
I’m not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. All I offer is a few insights, the highs, the lows, the rage, the laughs (there’s a lot of laughs, you have to laugh, life is funny). It’s also, I think and I’m told, a good piece of theatre in its own right.
And that’s why you should come – all of you. Because you never know when it might happen to you, your partner, your child or your friend. You never know when your next laugh will be. And you can never have too much good theatre…
*In this case, ‘everyone’ means everyone over the age of 14
The play contains strong language, multiple references to suicide and material of a sexual nature
A trigger sheet is available in advance from wassailtheatre.co.uk/over-the-wall-picking-apples should you need to prepare for potentially traumatic episodes in the show
Members of The Samaritans are in attendance at every show and our programme signposts local sources of support
Every performance concludes with a post-show discussion with the writer/performer and director or producer of the show
Over The Wall Picking Apples will take place on 13th July at 4:30 pm – 5:45 pm. Tickets cost: £6 – £9
Find out more about Richard and Over the Wall Picking Apples by visiting overthewallsomerset.com/.