That’s Not My Name: Is it a show or is it a disorder?

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Critics aren’t sure, audiences remain undecided, the writer doesn’t seem to know the difference.

But one thing is for sure: a mad woman is on a mission to protest the current clinical framework in a way that no one has set out to before. 

 

“I sincerely hope more mental health professionals worldwide can access this critical work and chime into an essential conversation about the conventions of the patriarchal and capitalist lens pervading the mental health care ecosystem” – Anisha Pucadyil, North West End

The stage is covered in crisps, the director (?) is unconscious and now a young woman is now dressed in a Waitrose bag with Aptamil dripping down her thighs. Welcome to That’s Not My Name, an ‘eloquent scattershot broadside at modern day psychiatry’ (The Morning Star) by mad artist and activist, Sammy Trotman. 

 

When attempting to describe TNMN in any significant detail, the word ‘eloquent’ may not be the one that springs to mind for most. ‘Chaos’… on the other hand, feels like a more appropriate descriptor of this 75 minutes that sees Sammy navigate stand up, spoken word, sketch and musical comedy in a bid to rid themselves of the term ‘personality disorder’. 

 

From the get-go, TNMN unapologetically plunges its audiences straight into the mind of the writer, forcing them to interact and engage with it. Akin to open brain surgery: the piece enforces the idea we should be learning from those we are reducing to disorders and not the other way around. Speaking ‘directly to the institution of Psychiatry’ (Broadway Baby)  the writer holds the most stigmatized aspects of themselves up, in a court of moral judgment, against the insanity of our current mental health system. 

 

“The show is borderline (pardon the pun) in its narrative tone and medium. It’s as introspective as it is outwardly observational and as serious as it is flippant. It’s not deliberate and I didn’t plan any of this. It was all verbatim to what was going on for me before, during and after I began to realize I’d been reducing my reality, behaviour and identity to a disorder label. Then, one day I woke up and began to find what I do and the way I experience everything hilarious.  I wouldn’t dream of laughing at other people’s distress. I break when I think about the scale of problem. But that’s how the show and I handle the weight of the subtext – with humour, which is something you can’t really do in the confounds of the framework itself”

 

Having been called ‘confrontational’, ‘controversial’ and ‘brutal’ (Fringe Biscuit, The Play’s The Thing, Lost in Theatreland)  as it has ‘non judgemental’, ‘critical’ and ‘hilarious’ (Broadway Baby, North West End, All That Dazzles) TNMN stops at nothing to ensure it’s take on the way we have been led to understand and define ‘mental illness’ in the West is heard loud and clear. It’s not hard to conceive the fact the show doesn’t mince its words by simply glancing at the poster that shows it’s creator holding the DSM, which is literally on fire. 

 

“There are no consequences for me to say what I think or be honest about myself in the context of a theatre, because it’s just a show, right? There are things I can say and do there that I wouldn’t be able to if I tried to fight what I believe is a human rights issue from inside the mental health ‘system’. Plus, you literally cannot handfist the point that sanity is context dependent more so than by using a context in which to perform insanity”

 

TNMN asks the right questions without providing any answers – respecting the delicate complexity of both individual distress and systemic change. The show, instead, invites it’s audience to stay behind to talk, challenge or add to the themes raised in it, in an open and collaborative discussion that Sammy has coined ‘Deconstructing Disorder’.

 

“I struggle with the idea of preaching to people to rid themselves of what can be validating explanations for our experience. But from where I’m standing, I see us all being scapegoated for falling outside the behavioral remit of what a capitalist-based system classes as conducive to itself. True delusion goes unnoticed and unquestioned when it’s en masse and I am fed up of the unjustness of that”.

 

That’s Not My Name was written and is performed by Sammy Trotman, directed by Jake Rix, designed by Scott Ward and stage managed by Alexis Steele. The group known as Covered in Jam developed and refined the piece at multiple theatres and festivals before receiving funds from ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND this year to continue bringing it to live audiences. The team joined forces with the aptly named ASYLUM Arts and Brightmouth Productions to produce the UK Tour which is set to kick off at The Camden People’s Theatre in London this April.

 

Current first release of tickets on sale:

LONDON 9-13th April  https://cptheatre.co.uk/whatson/Thats-Not-My-Name

BRISTOL 7th & 8th May https://www.tickettailor.com/events/almatheatrecompany/1138645?

BRIGHTON 28th-1st June https://www.brightonfringe.org/events/thats-not-my-name/

To find out more and stay updated with the work Sammy and team are doing,  follow @thatsnotmynameofficial over on Instagram. 

 

References: 

  1. North West End, Anisha Pucadyil 
  2. The Morning Star, James Walsh
  3. Broadway Baby, Miriam Colvi
  4. Fringe Biscuit
  5. The Play’s The Thing, Luisa De La Concha Montes 
  6. Lost In Theatreland, Emily Schofield 
  7. All That Dazzles, Harry Bower 
  8. One Woman’s Middle Finger To Psychiatry, Clara Hill 
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Sammy Trotman is a mad artist and activist whose work marries observational comedy with absurdism whilst teetering on the edges of acceptability. With no real established background but armed with delusional thinking and a keen interest in identity & behaviour, That's Not My Name was Sammy's first leap into the creative industry which has been met with both critical acclaim and confusion. Alongside TNMN Sammy continues to make work both online and in person which derails perceptions of sanity by calling out the hypocrisy of social normativity. Sammy is from Reading, UK where they work as an Indoor Cycling instructor and full-time single parent to their co-consciousness. Photo credit: Alexis Steele

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you very much Sammy,
    Keep up the great work, Sammy. I too am controversial, confrontational and brutal. There are whole genres of comedy which I enjoy and often quip. On my health journey, doctors were totally unaware that I spent some years with the Armed Forces. We do have a who repertoire of very bizarre, a dark sense of humour and one line put-downs. It is just banter.
    However, I often think, Do mental health professionals know how to behave appropriately in an Officer’s Mess or on Parade ? How long we have spent shining our shoes ? Firstly, they would not even be allowed onto a base, their IDENTIFICATION would not ALLOW them. Of course, the MOD screens people and undertakes rigorous checks. They have extremely SECURE Systems. Civilians do not necessarily cope with DISORDER but if you have been trained well; then you can handle most situations.
    There is no such thing as Social Normativity. We are multicultural, multi-faith and far too diverse. This needs to be respected and Psychiatry FAILS dismally at this.
    Best wishes