‘Take pains. Be perfect.’: Renowned mental health and homelessness charity, St. Mungo’s, is now rehearsing for their production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

St. Mungo’s has been running wellbeing and meditation sessions, therapeutic one-on-one sessions, and writing groups for some time. Now, they’re taking their belief in using creativity as a form of therapy to new heights.

In the near future, they will be staging an interpretation of William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, with the guidance of Harriet Garbas, a drama therapist and theatre director.

‘I believe in creativity and theatre’, says Harriet.

Harriet and her cast have studied multiple different versions of the play, working on scripts and doing improvisations. Now, they are developing their own interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy. 

David, an actor in the company, says excitedly, ‘We’re trying to translate it, because it’s all in Old English, so we’re trying to make it more understandable.’

‘We’re being very methodical and writing everything that is said, but in a way that everyone can understand.’

John, another member of the company, is also a poet and a writer. Recently, he has been working with Harriet to overcome his writer’s block.

His recent work includes a poem about the sun:

The sun puts a smile on people’s faces,

Makes them rush to the sea.

Chips on the pier, followed by ice cream and crazy golf.

The sun puts a smile on people’s faces,

Makes them do silly things.

‘Kiss me quick’ hats, closing-time brawls.

The sun puts a smile on people’s faces.

‘Oh no… is that rain?’

The idea of using creativity, especially drama, as a tool for therapy began in the 1970s and its popularity has grown exponentially ever since. 

‘Drama therapy is concerned with healing’, says Harriet, ‘and this is why it works so well in mental health settings’.

It is clear that there is little doubt about the efficacy of drama therapy. It encourages creativity, the imagination, the development of interpersonal skills and so much more. It also allows people to explore emotional difficulties and complicated circumstances from an ‘aesthetic distance’.

‘When we’re working on a production, we’re working towards a vision, and it allows for participants to develop empathy for the characters in the story, and for the other members of the company.’ says Harriet.

In short, it’s the character experiencing the drama, not necessarily the individual who is acting. The experience of personal and communal exploration has a knock-on effect, influencing the mind-set and behaviours of the individuals involved after the curtain has closed.

The show will be performed to family and friends, but Harriet and the company are optimistic about the show’s future. We may see it performed publicly at a later date.

Words by Jonathan R Parsonage