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Hidden LIVE - A blog by Russ Cowper

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Hidden LIVE - A blog by Russ Cowper

NIHR ARC-GM Public and Community Involvement and Engagement Panel Member, Russ Cowper, blogs about his experience of the Hidden LIVE performance at Royal Northern College of Music on 11th May 2022. 


Adam is a young adult who has unspecified mental health issues. He is about to leave Child mental health services and enter the world of adult mental health services. Adam lives at home in a cramped family environment. He is struggling and is about to lose his friend and mentor Sean from child services. Sean is upset about this as he knows Adams life could get worse than it already is. 


Originally I was part of a disparate group of people with lived experience who listened to Adams story. It was in the form of a podcast from Made by Mortals courtesy of the Johnny Barlow theatre company.


After listening to the podcast we discussed the content, thought about how Adams life could be improved and how would a good life for Adam look like. We discussed barriers and challenges that he would face and our round table discussion was recorded and comments from our group were incorporated into the live performance. Secondly we attended the live rehearsal of Adams story.


Once again we dissected it and this time our group discussion looked at the impact our input had and considered what impact the comments may or may not have. We discussed at length a comment about suicide and decided it should stay as it was impactful. These comments became an integral part of the live performance and helped facilitate further discussion as well showing that the mode of delivery was workable, practical and powerful.


The live performance itself was held at the superbly appointed Royal Northern College of Music. The venue contributed to the performances impact and even though it was my third time of listening/watching the performance it was a fabulous experience and the performance retained its ability to get across a powerful and impactful message.


The set itself was simple, barren almost, with just a single chair and a spotlight.In the darkened theatre this added to it's powerfulness. The whole performance was about the message and it's delivery was exceptional.


The audience were given eye mask's to wear and were encouraged to use them when asked. This was so the audience could imagine being in Adams shoes.


The only person on stage was Sean, Adams child mental health support worker. His performance was brilliant, it was moving, emotional and portrayed the agonies Sean was going through superbly.


In a way the live performance became as much about Sean's agonies as it did Adams challenges. As the story unfolded a range of topics were covered.


This was done cleverly by including the audience who prompted by the addition of our groups comments were encouraged to get involved and answer a range of questions such as what are the barriers and challenges Adam faces, what would a good life for Adam and his family look like. How could the transition between child and adult mental health services be improved and implemented.


The audience really bought into this interaction and many of the responses were hard hitting and emotional. In my opinion the whole live performance worked wonderfully well and was a credit to the young people involved in creating it and to the team at made by Mortals.


The performance finished with a stunning piece of music played by a solo violinist. The music was explained, it's influences pointed out and it signified Adam , his life, his hopes and his fears. It was incredibly moving.


I highly recommend listening to Adams story and to any of the other podcasts produced by made by Mortals. They are heartfelt, beautifully made and produced by real people with real life experience


Published 08/07/2022