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Strawberry Starburst & MHAW 2016

Dulwich on View
Date published
Thursday 19 May 2016
Niamh de Valera

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we’re showing Strawberry Starburst at the Blue Elephant.

Strawberry Starburst is a fierce new play about a teenager developing and battling an eating disorder. When Bram Davidovich first sent us his script, it hit a chord with us which has only strengthened as he has developed the play to include a more medically accurate description of Shez’ recovery process.

The Blue Elephant has had a strong focus on mental health and well-being for some time. Our forum theatre project, Speak Out, which tours to schools around Southwark has long focused on supporting young people to better understand their own mental health and how to cope in overwhelming situations and where to go to ask for help. We run 2BScene, an adult drama group predominantly made up of those with lived experience of mental health problems, which produces theatre pieces addressing the stigma attached to poor mental health and highlighting the isolation and vulnerabilities that can be both a cause and effect of mental health problems.

It follows that we were very receptive to Bram’s script and the story it contained. As a theatre, we try to address big issues and one of the strongest aspects of Strawberry Starburst, in our opinion, is that it doesn’t give a single reason for Shez becoming ill. There is a lot going on in her life; her dad leaving, her unfaithful boyfriend, her unwittingly harsh mother expecting certain things of her. But there are also chance remarks, certain memories, insidious thoughts, her own perseverance and her strength of character turning back on itself. Somewhere in this melting pot of reasons may lie the cause of her illness but the play isn’t going to give us an easy answer on that.

At the end of the play, Shez is in recovery and it’s tough. It’s not a happily-ever-after ending, but a step on a long road. Our mental health is fragile and recovering from bad times isn’t a simple thing. It can take a lot of time and effort and there may be setbacks and relapses – it’s not fair to make that look pretty or easy because it belies just how much strength goes into recovering from, and indeed living with, a mental health problem.

Strawberry Starburst runs at Blue Elephant Theatre until 28 May. For tickets, book here.

Eating Disorder charity Beat has helplines and an email service for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders and difficulties with food, weight and shape. We also have an email service and an online one to one service.

Adult Helpline: 0345 634 1414 or email
Youthline: 0345 634 7650 or email