The arts have often been used as a medium to raise the awareness of issues that perhaps go unnoticed by the majority of those in society. Often a silent minority within our communities that deal with day to day pressures that you and I perhaps take for granted. The more intimate the story that is told in relation to the issue, the more we feel the need to empathize, not just on a personal level, but also from a political and social standpoint.
It is exactly this kind of production that we encounter in Art of Heart’s Declaration, which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Developed in conjunction with the ADHD Foundation, medical professionals and mental health support groups, it is a one woman show that equally celebrates and depicts the agonies and ecstasies of an individual with ADHD and the myriad of differences that it brings.
Performed by Sarah Emmot, who co-created this with Rachel Moorhouse, it is what you would come to expect from someone who lives with the condition. This is no mere actor playing out the part, reading the lines and trying to convey the minefield of emotions that you would come to expect from someone dealing with ADHD. This is first hand, raw, utterly personal, passionate, powerful, autobiographical storytelling that you cannot but help but be affected by.
Sarah takes us on a journey that involves her experiences of AHDH, recounting incidents from her childhood, her conversations with her doctors, her coming to terms with her condition as a fully fledged adult. It’s bold and vibrant storytelling, using a combination of film, music and lots of audience participation. Emmot is in her element. She’s gives a compelling performance, a literally, in your face, tour de force, barnstorming portrayal.
As with most shows that involve just one performer the emphasis is placed firmly on the actor, but this is more than just Sarah standing in the middle of the round regaling an audience of her experiences. The set may seem simplistic but there’s an awful lot of thought that has gone into it. A variety of objects hung out on a washing line encircling our heads. Add to this the clever uses of props, video screen, combining this with a wooden chest makes this a far more enriching experience than you’d envisaged.
There are at times where I felt that Sarah was labouring her point. Sometimes less is more and to reiterate the same point can lose its shock value. Similarly, the audience participation worked really well at times, but on other occasions felt a little forced. It occurred to me that having this as one of your central tenets of telling your story relies on an audience that is going to play along.
Nonetheless, these are minor irritants in an overwhelming feel good production, by the end of which leaves you completely immersed and engaged in the issues of ADHD. This is theatre that is hoping to make a difference. It is thoughtful and doesn’t pull it’s punches and whilst it’s entertaining, it is prompting a discussion that is well overdue.
Verdict: A thoughtful look at the issues surrounding ADHD. Refreshing, challenging and brilliantly performed by the star of the show, Sarah Emmott.