Post Traumatic Stress from a variety of sources is a familiar phenomenon in modern times. Perhaps less well-known is Post Traumatic Growth, explained by Zest Theatre as ‘the positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances’.
The circular set of nine ladders has three locations triangulated outside it; one for each of the three characters in a construction that alludes to three ways of dealing trauma: surviving, recovering and thriving.
The company was inspired by true stories of young people and has been assisted in the creation of this work by Dr. Roger Bretherton, who acted as psychological consultant. In addition, Zest Theatre has experience gained over nine years of working with young people throughout the country using the arts to explore difficult issues and contribute to better mental health and the empowerment of individuals. This latest work examines the reactions of three young characters to the sudden accidental death of someone they each knew, yet ‘the show isn’t really about the traumatic event, instead it's about finding hope when the going gets tough’.
The description of the stimulus for their reactions was almost lost in the the sounds and business going on around the narrative that explains it, but it’s really important to grasp this opening and it probably needs to be made clearer. There’s a lot taking place in this mix of promenade and immersive theatre which doesn’t fit neatly into either category. The circular set of nine ladders has three locations triangulated outside it; one for each of the three characters in a construction that alludes to three ways of dealing trauma: surviving, recovering and thriving. It’s possible to walk around and among the elements of the set up to where performers are speaking or follow them to another actor’s base. This allows for close proximity to the actors and a considerable level of intimacy.
Daniel Morgan (Ollie), Claire Gaydon (Ashleigh) and Luke Vernon (Raph) cope with this invasion of the actor’s traditional space with ease even if Daniel admits it took some getting used to. They each express their feelings in different ways, which provide insight into the range of responses that such an event can evoke. Ollie tends to see only good in the deceased, with Daniel revealing how withdrawn and introspective someone can become. Ashleigh sees many other sides to the deceased and in a powerful performance Claire shows that life goes on. Raph reveals the intensity of suffering that can arise and in this Luke Vernon draws on much of his own experience.
The production is heavily focussed on young people but is accessible to all. That morning the cast had done a workshop in a local secondary school and in the evening the students came to see the production. It is clear that Zest Theatre is doing valuable work with teenageers and at the same time mounting a production that is therapeutic, amusing and challenging. Thrive is a rewarding piece and a credit to director Toby Ealden that opens up the discussion of death and trauma and should stimulate interest in the wider potential of theatre.