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Theatre for Life presents Emerge

We're proud to be involved in a new theatre production which features local, young people sharing real stories of overcoming adversity and mental health struggles. We have been working with the Hampshire theatre group - Theatre for Life - to help support their new powerful and honest play - Emerge. Find out more and how you can watch it, in our interview with Artistic Director Michelle Smith.

We're proud to be involved in a new theatre production which features local, young people sharing real stories of overcoming adversity and mental health struggles. We have been working with the Hampshire theatre group - Theatre for Life - to help support their new powerful and honest play - Emerge. Find out more and how you can watch it, in our interview with Artistic Director Michelle Smith.

Hi Michelle, please can you tell me a little bit about the Theatre for Life?

At Theatre for Life we work with aspiring and emerging young theatre makers to create life changing theatre projects to support our immediate community and beyond. Using theatre for change we want to nurture and support creativity amongst marginalised groups both within our company and the audiences we reach.

Our work focuses on positive growth mindsets and mindfulness, instilling self-confidence and developing lifelong skills. We use therapeutic and restorative practices using the arts to support Mental Health and Wellbeing in partnership with Solent Mind.

Where did the idea for Emerge come from?

The idea for Emerge came through our six month emergency creativity and wellbeing online programme, which we ran in response to COVID 19 with the support of Arts Council England and Solent Mind.

The programme showed us more than ever it was important that society didn’t revert to forcing young people with hidden disabilities and mental health back into isolation, whilst the rest of the world carried on.

Who are the actors?

Many of our young people have experienced extensive hospital stays and ongoing medical intervention and are no stranger to time out from education and staying at home. However, many of our young people have felt that COVID 19 has highlighted health inequalities even further and for the first time in their lives they have felt excluded from society and their peers.

Evan Bartlett (14 years old), youth actor said:

‘Both at the start and end of lockdown made me feel isolated, particularly when we got the letter to shield, it reminded me of the fact that I’ve got a kidney transplant and that I’m on medication and I have to be careful. Other than flu jabs every year, I don’t normally feel excluded.’

As a company we wanted to remove this feeling of exclusion by promoting self-efficacy, empowering our young people to feel valued and heard. Emerge is about defying the stereotype of ‘vulnerability’ and instead celebrating our young company and their creative individuality.

We encourage open dialogue and co-creation with our theatre makers, working together to create powerful and meaningful theatre with the guidance of professional artists.

What is Emerge about?

Emerge is a community led film devised and written by young people, inspired by real stories from 1912 and 2021 which reflect the tenacity of the human condition both past and present. Modern perspectives are contrasted against a community dealing with the aftermath of the Titanic tragedy.

A powerful and honest film, sharing hidden stories and challenging inequalities, helping us to learn from the past to inform our futures. Throughout the film, Emerge presents a collection of authentic voices which explore the truths behind hidden disabilities, mental health and overcoming adversity. Using headphone verbatim our young theatre makers have collected unique personal stories from within our community, capturing honest, unpredictable and tender testimonies between 2020-2021.

The collaboration involves our Theatre for Life youth company working with young people with long term illness from Southampton Children’s Hospital. Our young people have hidden disabilities and long-term health conditions such as chronic heart failure, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis and autoimmune conditions, alongside some lived experience of mental health.

How are you working with Solent Mind on this project?

This project has only been made possible due to the working relationships between Theatre for Life, Solent Mind and Southampton Children’s Hospital. Safeguarding is at the forefront of our work and with a strong team in place we have been able to ensure all needs can be met. At all times participants have access to mental health and pastoral support with the youth team at the hospital and Abigail Oakley, founder of ‘Heads Up’ at Solent Mind.

How can people watch Emerge?

Audiences can watch our premiere screening of Emerge on the 25th June at 7.30 pm at MAST Mayflower Studios in Southampton. Tickets are on currently on sale. (see top of page)

Theatre for Life and Solent Mind will also be running a morning screening for schools and colleges for 14-25 year olds with a supporting workshop on ‘Resiliency’ at 11 am on the 25th June.

We will provide a safe and creative space with resilience tools and activities to help understand the narrative links and parallels within the film as we prepare for a time of recovery. We want young people to rediscover their voice and aspirations, redefining their own narrative and gaining a greater sense of self-belief.  (Workshop bookings:

What do you hope Emerge will achieve?

We wanted Emerge to help combat social isolation, loneliness, whilst improving accessibility to the arts, providing a youth voice around hidden disabilities and mental health.

Nurturing self-belief at this time is an essential part of recovery, we want Emerge to help restore mental health and wellbeing, allowing our young people and audiences to recognise their own inner strength when faced with challenging times.

Emerge explores universal themes around the human spirt and how it triumphs in the face of adversity. We believe audiences will resonate and empathise with some of the issues explored as well as reflecting on how we can emerge more informed in a world post covid.

We are eternally grateful to Solent Mind for their continued support with our community work with young people, helping to signpost and provide advice with a dedication and ongoing commitment to our creative practices which promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Shealyn Caulfield (21 years old), Theatre for Life youth actor said:

“As a high-risk person living with a life-limiting disability (CHD and Heart Failure), these times are genuinely terrifying. During this experience I have realised how important it is to band together as a community and help the vulnerable and high-risk. No community can overcome any issue with a ‘each for their own’ mentality. It is so important that we don’t revert back to forcing the disabled and vulnerable back into isolation while the rest of the world carries on; but take the steps to come together and work with each other to create a safe and equal environment. Creative outlets and charities like Theatre for Life and Solent Mind are giving young people the chance to be heard during this pandemic, to establish that we believe in your worth as a member of society.” 

Holly Parson (25 years old), Theatre for Life youth actor said:

"The level of help Theatre for Life and Solent Mind has offered me throughout the pandemic has been invaluable and continuous. This has been from workshops, the project of Emerge and the rehearsal process and the technique process, even the check in's throughout the week. The space is always understanding of every individuals headspace and location at the time as we all know that some days are better than others. The support is overwhelmingly positive and I couldn't recommend being part of this theatre group enough."

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