My first show of the Edinburgh Fringe just had to be mental health related, and I couldn’t have chosen better with Can’t Stop Can’t Stop. As someone with pretty much no experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, both personally or with someone close to me, I was keen to get more insight into how this illness affects those dealing with it daily. I got this in droves in a show that strives to educate and connect.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects 1.2% of the UK population and manifests itself in disturbing, intrusive thoughts, compelling the sufferer to perform repetitive, exhausting actions. After the struggle of starting University in 2016, Sam set out to find out more about his mental health condition, and figure out how to overcome it. The result is an immersive show that balances personal experience with a presentation of the latest scientific understanding of the intricacies of this illness.
Set in the round in a small square room, this show tries everything to immerse you in Sam’s experience and allow the audience to take look inside his brain. Everything from the space itself to the ‘Just Do It’ t-shirt is a constant reminder of what those with OCD go through. It’s incredibly difficult to convey how having a mental illness truly feels without potentially making the audience uncomfortable, but here is a show that says ‘that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it’, providing support and trigger warnings along the way in a carefully constructed and conscious piece.
Sam Ross, the writer and performer, is instantly likeable with a quirky comedy song in the first few minutes, helping to bring you into his life before really approaching the ins and outs of OCD. You truly feel for him but this is a piece that goes beyond sympathy or empathy through a strong desire to inform.
What Sam and co-director Natalie Ann achieves is a piece that boldly articulates the difference between the high and low moments, while also making it relatable and accessible. I found myself drawing comparisons with my own experience of irrational fears and phobias as Sam effectively describes how it is to live out of control of your brain. One of the best analogies is to that of an itch that must be scratched.
He touches on common mental health themes such as acting fine on the surface and how your life can feel like it revolves around failure, yet he draws you in to a very personal story with sound script-writing and a bit of audience assistance.
This is one for those who have experience with mental health but also for those wanting to learn more as this show strives to aid understanding. Can’t Stop Can’t Stop gives a deep and sometimes difficult glimpse into life with OCD while tackling stereotype and stigma through real experience.
Before booking, take note of Sam’s useful trigger warnings on his website.
Can’t Stop Can’t Stop is at C venues – C royale – studio 2 at 16:35 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe until 27 August. Tickets available online.
Photo credits: Aenne Pallasca, Giulia Delprato and Matt Giles