Mental health at the core of new Fringe production

The multiple award-winning play Shell Shock is coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Shell Shock addresses the major mental health issues that are leading to former service men and women taking their own lives.

The Ministry of Defence has just admitted that it ‘does not hold information on the causes of death for all UK Armed Forces veterans’.

This includes the growing numbers among our estimated 2.6 million former service men and women who take their own lives.

Opening on 11 August as part of the Army@TheFringe programme, it tackles the mental health challenges faced by some veterans trying to return to civilian life.

Adapted from Gulf War veteran Neil Blower Watkins’ autobiographical novel of the same name, Shell Shock tells the story of long-serving soldier Tommy Atkins’ attempts to return to Civvy Street and his undiagnosed PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

The effects of PTSD amongst generations of ex-military and first responders in a social media driven society where we are constantly under pressure to live ‘happy and fulfilled’ lives are huge.

Shell Shock was adapted for the stage and is performed by BBC comedy veteran Tim Marriott (The Brittas Empire) and was created in association with military and mental health charities as a stigma reduction project for the military community and beyond. Earlier this year it was named Best Solo Show at the Adelaide Fringe.

The play is ultimately positive, offering hope and support, and is followed by informal interactive feedback sessions, or ‘Fire Circles’, where others are encouraged to share their own stories.

Tim said: ‘PTSD can be a huge challenge for veterans. All too often the symptoms are repressed, unrecognised and often go untreated, especially in a culture defined by masculine grit. For generations we have taught our young men tobe embarrassed about their emotions and hide them, or avoid communicating them – unless in anger. This is now recognised as Toxic Masculinity.’

As Tommy shares his observations on the absurdities of the everyday with the audience, so the cracks in his military grit become apparent. As he represses his reactions to flashbacks, he rails at the world in increasing outrage. Nothing is safe. From post office queues to Ikea, computer games to ‘phone zombies, all feel the force of his frustration.

The production is thought provoking and poignant, ‘comic and convincing’ (InDaily), and ‘fabulously witty’ (Clothesline).

· Venue: Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall, Hepburn House Army Reserve Centre, East Claremont Street (Venue 210)

· Time: 5.30pm.

· Duration: 60 mins.

· Dates: 11, 12, 14-19, 21-25 August. Previews 10 August.

· Tickets: £9 to £12

· Bookings:

· Advisory: Contains strong language.

Read more about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scottish Field’s previews HERE.