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ONE UNDER – Vaults Festival, London.

One-Under-Main-Image-Digital*DISCLAIMER* I will start this review how Amy Flemming starts One Under, with a disclaimer about the language used – Flemming uses the term Mental Health, so I have used it throughout this review. It is not meant to cause offence; it is the chosen terminology of the artist.

The Lab Collective present One Under, an extremely poignant, personal and powerful piece fusing theatre, science and games, performed and conceived by Amy Flemming. From the performance’s programme notes, we discover that this piece stems from Flemming’s experiences since her father jumped in front of a train when she was four.

I admit I was worried how this piece was going to portray the complexities of mental health, but I should not have been. Flemming is brilliant. She handles this sensitive subject matter by combining brute honesty, open discussions with the audience and (dare I say it?) fun games with the audience. As a graduate of Molecular Medicine, Flemming is able to tell us (on an admittedly basic, but friendly level) the science behind the genetics in our bodies and brain – and crucially, how we have the power to change the way we think and function. The pace of the piece has a wonderful flow. From moments where Flemming refers to herself in the third person and divulges her experiences as a child, teenager and adult – revealing what was said to her in therapy (I hope you’ll be as shocked as I was when you hear this) and the way her family responded to her reactions to events – to moments where she asks the audience how we consider her.

Interestingly, the game-show style sections of One Under are where the most significant revelations are found – and the surprise came from the behaviour of the audience. This is where Flemming’s real power lies in One Under. She successfully challenges the audience (and it is important to mention here that there is no pressure to participate, but if you choose to do so, it is in a safe and fun environment) and highlights their individual perceptions by pitching them against a majority ruling. Flemming uses a ‘stick or switch’ technique, so that the audience has to verbally unite to agree upon a majority rule.

Combining all of the games, personal experiences and projected media make One Under a brilliant and enjoyable show about mental health. The delicacy and truthfulness with which One Under is performed, make the show a great sounding board for this topic. With warmth and humour it acknowledges that talking really does help. Flemming presents a link at the end of the show to the pledge wall on http://www.time-to-change.org.uk. Reading the pledges already posted extends all of Flemming’s work in One Under, and might go some way to continuing discussions about mental health. Congratulations Amy, One Under is an astonishing piece of theatre that has opened up some great discussions.

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By Emily Jones

19th – 21st February 2016
The Vaults, Leake Street, London, SE1 7NN.


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