If you suffer with mental health illness, is it ok not to help your partner? Is it ok to focus on yourself? Felicity Huxley-Miners presents In The Shadow Of The Mountain, a play that examines mental health in relationships. Daniel Perks catches up with her before its opening:

Can you put your energy into both a relationship and into yourself, especially when each member equally needs the self-care and wellbeing that isn’t on offer? Felicity Huxley-Miners explores this in her second full-length production, In The Shadow Of The Mountain. Along with co-star and co-producer, David Shears, Huxley-Miners plays a character with Borderline Personality Disorder, trying to care for herself as well as for her new partner as he stands on the edge of oblivion. Yes, this is another mental health play, but it’s a play that co-examines both the individual and the couple’s emotional wellbeing.

I caught up with Felicity just before In The Shadow Of The Mountain opens at the Old Red Lion Theatre to find out more about this new production:

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

Felicity Huxley-Miners

Congratulations on your slot at the Old Red Lion Theatre. How does it feel to be performing In The Shadow Of The Mountain here for its London premiere?

“It’s a fantastic feeling and we’re all really excited to open at The Old Red Lion. They’ve been such an incredibly supportive venue, which really makes a difference to emerging theatre companies and producers.

“I wrote the play last year and it’s been through lots of R&D, a scratch night with Anonymous is a Woman at the Southwark Playhouse and quite a long rehearsal process, which has been fantastic, so it feels like it’s really ready to go into the world now. It’s always nerve-wracking producing your own stuff because you’ve invested so much emotionally and financially into it but I’ve been so lucky to work with such a brilliant team who have created such a brilliant show!”

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

David Shears & Felicity Huxley-Miners

You’ve had a wonderful journey with Instinct Theatre over the last few years. Can you share your thoughts about your journey with this company? Why did you form it and where do you hope the future lies?

“It’s certainly kept me busy! The company initially started as a group of friends getting together and putting on some theatre. We all wanted to keep our hands in and create something that we were proud of but didn’t really have any aspirations for it to be a long-standing company. Fast forward three years and we’ve had three scratch nights, a run of new work at the London Theatre, a play at the King’s Head and Canal Café Theatres and now our run at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

“We started running scratch nights as a way to meet new people and to try out working on different types of projects, which has been such a fantastic experience – several have developed into full length productions. I started writing because I wasn’t getting the kind of roles I wanted to be playing and it was a creative outlet to channel that frustration! I’m so glad I did now as it’s given me the chance to work with some fantastic people and we’ve got so much in the pipeline for the future.”

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

Felicity Huxley-Miners & David Shears

The play itself addresses Borderline Personality Disorder in relationships. What is it about this particular area of mental health that inspired you to write this work?

“I do a lot of mental health roleplay work, travel to different hospitals and training centres playing a range of characters on courses led by psychiatrists. We were sent on an actors course to meet people who lived with the conditions we were playing and had a few days listening to them and hearing their stories, which was such an incredible experience. I was really interested by the woman who came to us who was living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It wasn’t a mental illness I had heard of before and found such a weird mix of information online.

“I found blog after blog written by men warning others away from woman with BPD, spewing some truly vile content and utterly demonising the condition. Most portrayals I found in mainstream media were massively sensationalised, portraying women with BPD as difficult and deliberately manipulating; somewhere, the moniker ‘crazy bitch syndrome’ was born to describe the symptoms. All of this contributes to the harmful, negative portrayal and is so damaging to both those affected and those with little personal experience.

“It’s not all bad! There are also great websites like Mind which give information about the condition and how it manifests, with blogs from people who live with it talking about their experiences. We’re so proud to be supported by Mind and have the script approved by their team – it’s so important to be portraying this sort of thing accurately & sensitively and enhance the dialogue around it instead of contribute to the negative stigma.”

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

David Shears & Felicity Huxley-Miners

Who are your inspirations in this field, or in your creative journey itself?

“I’ve become really aware in the last few years of women who are writing and performing in their own work. Fleabag was such a massive success, as was Chewing Gum, but there are some great women emerging on stage with fresh, exciting work. Some of the best stuff I’ve seen recently was Natasha Marshall in Half Breed, Daniella Isaac’s Hear Me Raw and Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon.

“Soho Theatre programmes a glorious mix of stuff including lots of female-led work which is considered ‘risky’ for some reason elsewhere – so that’s always been somewhere I like to visit and check out what’s on. Smaller fringe venues like the Old Red Lion Theatre, Finborough and Theatre503 are also fantastic and programme some wonderfully diverse shows that still aren’t in many of the big venues.

“Writer/ actors like Sarah Solemani, Ruth Jones and Emma Thompson have also been paving the way on screen and proving that if you invest in new, exciting writers you will get new and exciting stories!”

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

David Shears & Felicity Huxley-Miners

Talk to us about Quantum Frolic Theatre, the co-producer run by David Shears. How did this collaboration for In The Shadow Of The Mountain come about?

“David and I met as actors in a play two years ago. We knew we wanted to work together and when I finished writing In the Shadow of the Mountain I knew David would be a fantastic Rob. We were both running companies and decided we should make it a co-production so we would both take on the producing side as well as act together.

“When In the Shadow of the Mountain is over and we’ve both had time to breathe we’re going to sit down and go through all the stage and screen scripts we’ve both been working on and plan out exactly what we’re focusing on and where we’re going. There could be some exciting times ahead!”

 

 

In The Shadow Of The Mountain runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 15 May – 2 June 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.