At Edinburgh Fringe, a Spotlight on Mental Health

Dressed in thick hats and heavy raincoats on the stage of a makeshift theater, three actors stumbled humorously through an imaginary storm. They buckled helplessly against the roaring sonic tempest coming from the room’s speakers, before it abruptly ended. The sun came out. But then the storm returned, louder and more ferocious.

The actors were from the London theater company Silent Faces, one of thousands of acts at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The piece, “A Clown Show About Rain,” is a deceptively playful work of physical theater: As it wears on, it becomes apparent that the tempest at the play’s center is a metaphor for depression.

“We’ve all suffered quite a lot, at varying levels,” Josie Underwood, a member of the company, said of the group’s mental health. “I think it’s been therapeutic to make a show about it.”

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, a sprawl of multidisciplinary entertainment that transforms Scotland’s capital for several weeks every August. This year, there are over 3,500 shows, mostly theater and comedy, in more than 300 venues. The Fringe is open to all performers, who pay a registration fee for a spot on the program.

Over the past few years, mental health has emerged as a prominent topic at the Fringe. According to the charity Changing Ideas, which gives an annual award for socially engaged theater, a record 52 theatrical shows at the festival last year dealt with the issue. This year, it is a still-prodigious 42.

– The New York Times

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