Box of Frogs
Three people on stage, happy, successful, gorgeous!!! But there’s one thing they have in common. Each of these people has now or at some time in their lives experienced the torment of mental health problems.
Actress Mary McEvoy, comedian John Moynes and broadcaster Dil Wickremasinghe have teamed up to share their stories of personal experience with a mental health problem in a mixture of stories, comedy sketches and songs to de-mystify, debunk and ultimately have a laugh with what really goes on inside our heads. Mary has to pull herself out of bed, second by second in the face of panic, John spends an evening as the life and soul of the party and then comes home and opens up the razorblades. Dil sits at home in her pyjamas for three months as memories of childhood abuse wash over her.
But they each have a plan. John takes out an insurance policy with the Lady from The Void against Existential Dread, Mary takes her old friend depression out for a Cappuccino and Dil, well Dil takes up pyjamas as a way of life.
The idea for Box of Frogs was spawned when cast members Mary McEvoy and Dil Wickremasinghe participated in a ‘Soapbox Session’ event during the First Fortnight mental health, arts and film festival in January 2012. Impressed with the power of personal stories in opening minds about mental health problems, the cast members set about writing the stories of their own mental health experiences with playwright Isobel Mahon.
Box of Frogs was commissioned by See Change –a partnership of more than 70 Irish organisations working together to change minds about mental health problems and end stigma. Visit www.seechange.ie
Where did the idea come from?
I believe that some of the best ideas are a combination of opportunity and being as “mad as a box of frogs” for going for it!
In January 2012 I took part in an event in the Button Factory where I performed a stand up routine about mental health as part of the annual First Fortnight festival. The event was organised in collaboration with See Change. The line up consisted of many well known personalities including Mary McEvoy. I was nervous as hell as this was the first time I was performing a stand up routine about mental health which included my personal struggle and my experience of abuse. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the venue was packed to capacity and I was the first act! Thankfully the routine went smoothly and the gags were well received! All the other speakers spoke honestly about their personal struggle with their mental health and as I walked out of the venue I was struck by how powerful the whole event had been.
The following week I was on Midday on TV3 with Mary McEvoy and while we were in make-up we chatted about the First Fortnight event we were part of the earlier week. We were both touched by it and wondered how amazing it would be if we could create a play about mental health which told the real life experiences of the performers with the aim to challenge stigma.
From talking to action!
It was no more than a 10 minute conversation but both Mary and I knew we were on to something. That afternoon I called See Change to pitch the idea and they jumped on board immediately!
Next we needed a writer to write a script, Mary suggested long time friend, Isobel Mahon. When I heard Isobel was not only an accomplished actor and writer but also a psychotherapist I got really excited! Isobel then suggested theatre director Caroline Fitzgerald to join the team.
So now we had two barking mad performers willing to share their mental health stories on stage, one incredibly talented writer, an experienced theatre director, one supportive sponsor now all the project was missing was a Man – enter John Moynes! I met John on Twitter earlier this year when he came out of stand up comedy retirement to perform at my alcohol-free comedy club. I loved his style of comedy but most of all found John to be a really genuine and honest guy with an incredibly funny and moving story.
The Smock Alley Theatre 19th – 24th November 2012
Nine months later our collaboration gave birth to “Box Of Frogs” – a happy play about being sad! It ran for 6 nights and filled the venue to capacity!
Listen to Box of Frogs Radio Ad
Dil Ticks Box With Her Fine Acting Debut – Sunday World
First Forthnight Festival
On 11th January Box of Frogs was featured in the annual Mental Health Arts Festival and sold out the Mill Theatre in Dundrum!