Putting Shakespeare's Characters on the couch!
Analyse Thou was first performed in 2016 as part of the Oxford Shakespeare Jubilee festival. Since then, it has played at various other venues, including Oxford’s Old Fire Station. The original play was co-written by Jeremy Allen, Lee Woodward and Jodana Janse Van Vuuren, and began our journey of exploration through the psyches of well-known Shakespearian characters.
Our first play consisted of three therapy sessions. We witnessed Hamlet undergoing bereavement counselling, Titania confronting her childhood traumas through hypnotherapy, and the
Macbeths undertaking marriage guidance counselling.
The tone was comedic but insightful, and our goal was to highlight mental health issues by finding parallels within well-known Shakespearean texts.
When our plans to revive the original show in 2020 were postponed due to the pandemic, we began considering how a fresh set of Shakespearean characters might undergo therapeutic evaluation via Zoom.
Adapting for Zoom
While the Covid pandemic was a critical factor in our decision to rehearse and perform our play through an online platform, we have embraced this format.
Our working model was also partially inspired by fellow Oxonians, Creation Theatre Company, who have staged a number of critically-acclaimed Zoom productions and brought theatre to computer screens across the UK.
Many factors prevent everyday people from watching live theatre, such as lack of income, limited mobility, or prohibitive mental health conditions such as contamination OCD and depression. We will continue to use online tools, such as Zoom, to reach audiences who have difficulty attending live theatre, even once things get back to normal (or the “new normal”).
For our new Zoom Version of Analyse Thou, we partnered up with Response and Oxfordshire Mind – two organisations that offer significant support for people with mental health issues. These partners sourced a number of volunteers to participate in a series of writers’ workshops before we performed the debut of our latest show to their staff and service users on the 11th of June 2021.
While working as co-writers of this new online production, Jeremy Allen took the role of Producer and Lee Woodward took the role of director.
Our Writers' workshops took the form of discussion forums in which participants from the mental health sector (both service users and providers) made valuable suggestions on content and related their own experiences to parallel the themes depicted in our Shakespearean sources. Some of our contributors were very vocal in their opinions! The decision on which characters to portray was reached by consensus. As the project progressed, we read back various drafts to the group to gauge their opinion and maintain authenticity from a clinical perspective.
It enabled several of our service users to access the arts and make meaningful contributions of their own volition.
Max J Wright
Wellbeing Service Worker
Cast and Crew
In order to make our first online performance of Analyse Thou a reality we needed a professional cast and crew with the imagination and versatility to embody their characters' eccentricities and vulnerabilities while exploring the possibilities and boundaries of Zoom theatre. Fortunately, we were able to assemble a top notch group of artists to bring our vision to the screen. We then had just three weeks to rehearse, tweak and perform the show - all via Zoom.
Charlie is a young actress and artist based in London. She is a member of the National Youth Theatre and has a keen interest in both Shakespeare's plays and the topic of mental health.
Charlie has recently played leading roles in a number of short films for Met Film School, London Film Academy and London College of Fashion, and has worked on a number of projects for the Young Vic Directors Program.
Actor: Giulietta / Sam
Kingsley Amadi is a British Actor who trained at Italia Conti Academy Of Theatre Arts Drama School.
Kingsley’s Credits include MR FOOTE'S OTHER LEG (Theatre Royal Haymarket), SECRET HEART (Produced by Ill Manors' Atif Ghani), ON- DUTY, HEADLOSS, BAKERSFIELD, THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL, OTHELLO, and PENNYWORTH (Warner Bros).
Actor: Otto / Clarke
Lara is a British-Swiss-Belgian actress who graduated from Drama Centre London in 2020.
She is fluent in French, a highly skilled violin player and has stage and screen combat experience.
Stage credits include; ‘Bombshell’ and ‘Kidnap!’ at Camden Fringe Festival, ‘Strangers’ at The Space at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and ‘Oedipus The King’ at Nottingham Lakeside Arts
Actor: Kate / Sylvia
George is an ACE supported actor, theatre maker and Zoom facilitator.
Tech direction credits include Up, Up, Up and Away! (Super Stories), HORATIO! And Hamlet (Creation Theatre), Urinetown (Colchester Institute) and online table reads with Mercury Theatre, Sky TV and a range of TV/film production companies. He is a member of the Mercury Creatives scheme, and was recently awarded funds to develop a new horror play exploring digital identity and relationships. He Tweets at @georenimo
I was already familiar with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but missed certain little details when I was working on it, like the breast-feeding/earthquake incident that the nurse briefly mentions. I found it fascinating that such a briefly mentioned detail was so significant in Juliet’s psychological development and attachment style.
Portrayed Giulietta/Sam in Analyse Thou
Our Public Performance
On the 12th of June, we performed our online production of Analyse Thou to a public audience, and held an aftershow Q&A.
Though we have received unanimously positive feedback from our audiences and collaborators, we feel there is plenty of scope for further exploration of this concept and many more Shakespearean characters ripe for analysis. With the continued help of mental health professionals and service users, we envision revisiting the Analyse Thou project in 2022, with new characters to discover and further innovations to be made.
Here's what our audience had to say about our online show.