By Anna Jeavons
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mindshare, a creative community and online mental health publication. Reflections are by mindshare writers with lived experience of mental illness, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.
Journey is a multidisciplinary theatre production showcasing a young cast of culturally diverse poets, actors, comedians, dancers, and storytellers.
The cast generously shares a series of personal “journeys”, and while many of these are shaped by tribulation, the themes that stood out to me were compassion and kindness, pride and self-esteem, identity and belonging, and resilience and hope.
There are many moments that address mental health in Journey—from trauma and suicide, to anxiety and loneliness. I found one of the very first poetic exchanges particularly powerful:
The character on stage makes a phone call to a friend, asking for help. She discloses a deep sense of loneliness. Her friend, offstage, replies, “what do you need?”. It can often be difficult to articulate exactly what we need when we feel this way, but Vivana Luzochimana does:
“I need to sit, to sleep, to cry. I need to be with someone other than myself; I need company. I want to laugh. I want to smile.”
“I’m coming to get you, to keep you safe,” her friend replies, “I love you.”
In a succinct, accessible way, this fleeting scene communicated not only what a dark moment can feel like, but also where we can find comfort, and what we all, at the end of the day, want to hear from our loved ones.
Another poet, SanSan Ja, cries to the heavens in grief and frustration, “Don’t you know you’re a miracle!?” Her mourning is heartbreaking, but her words are motivating. I feel inspired to self-belief as she urges a lost friend to re-evaluate their worthlessness, and acknowledge how important their existence was to those around them.
SanSan outlines how all this person needed (past tense) was a safe space free from judgement. This theme arises often in Journey, a reminder that we need to put concerted energy into kindness and compassion; that this can save lives.
It is clear many of the cast members feel a deep sense of pride in who they are and what they have overcome. This pride, for some, is a decision. They’ve laboured for self-esteem. They’ve worked to escape from what one poet calls “the deep dark abyss of self-hatred”.
“I’m not perfect, but I’m worthy,” another cast member says. Vivana: “I am a gift to life”.
This lack of negativity and nihilism in the face of adversity is refreshing. Though they will continue to fight for justice, these young people are choosing to find purpose, meaning and beauty in life. They are choosing compassion. And they are choosing creativity as a means to process their stories.
“The first time I picked up a mic was the first time I felt true love.”
Journey is a testament to the power of art for healing and wellbeing. This team of diverse individuals have found a sense of identity and belonging in the creative. They’re using the medium of poetry (or dance, or drama) to unpack their experiences, understand their stories, and are now courageously and confidently sharing what they’ve learnt about themselves, and about the world.
But these are not my stories to tell—stories of feeling lost between two cultures, of feeling alienated in a new homeland, of adapting to western norms. In fact, not even the hour presented could fit a sliver of the multitudes contained within these individuals. But what they do gift their audiences with is thought-provoking, uplifting, and inspiring.
Each of the Journey cast members are uniquely talented, charismatic, and engaging. These are the next generation of storytellers, and I hope their empowered and empowering voices carry them onwards to wider audiences.
Four and a half stars.