Since 2004, the Menier Chocolate Factory has been a successful theatre, transferring productions to the West End and Broadway. But, this month, the theatre is being transformed for a different purpose altogether. It will become a part-time mental health drop-in centre.
It is all part of the return of Losing It, a two-woman show about mental health, written and performed by comic actor Ruby Wax and musician Judith Owen, which debuted at the venue earlier in the year following a successful tour around the country in theatres and mental health facilities.
As part of the new run, the Chocolate Factory is holding drop-in sessions, in conjunction with the charity Sane, for people seeking support with mental health issues.
Owen, a singer-songwriter, is looking forward to this new development, which she and Wax have been hoping for since the show’s inception. “We’re very excited – we wanted to be able to get psychiatrists and nurses and whoever it might be, so that people know where to phone, where to go online, where to get help. It’s about talking to people who understand.”
“People who feel they have mental [health] issues and their carers have nowhere to go to find help,” adds Wax. “We’re opening this forum so that people can meet fellow sufferers, get information on where they can go and what they can do.”
Each session is free and features a guest speaker from the field, followed by a question-and-answer panel with Wax, Owen, and Marjorie Wallace, the founder and chief executive of Sane, with charity staff on hand to discuss its services and to guide people towards potential resources around the country.
Wallace welcomes the opportunity to work with Wax and Owen in this way. “Staging this series of forums is a truly innovative idea that will allow everybody who is affected by or interested in mental health to take part in informative, frank and relaxed discussions,” she says. “This will be a chance for people to come together to learn more about therapies and treatments, and it is so important for professionals, carers and those who have been or who are affected by mental ill-health to share and talk openly about their experiences.”
Owen admits that the show itself may not be what everyone is expecting. “It’s a different theatrical experience,” she says. “We knew it would be a hard one to get across. It should leave you thinking about things. Whenever you go somewhere and you cry, or feel emotional, or you feel something other than sitting back and being entertained, that’s an intense experience. It encourages people to think about the subject matter long and hard afterwards. That’s what we’re seeking to do.”
• Losing It sessions will be held on 19 and 26 May and 2, 9 and 16 June, 2pm-4pm, at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London.