At a time when the issues of migration and mental health are seldom out of the news, CHOMI has worked with the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick (CHM) and Talking Birds to develop a new theatre production which explores why the mid-19th century saw a prevalence of mental disorders among Irish migrants.
This follows CHM's successful collaboration with Talking Birds on 'Trade in Lunacy' in 2013, and again used original music, song, humour and sharp characterisations to tell a series of intertwining stories.
The new piece is called 'A Malady of Migration' and is based on research being carried out by Professor Hilary Marland of Warwick and Dr Catherine Cox of University College Dublin, in a project called Madness, Migration and the Irish in Lancashire, c.1850-1921, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Professor Hilary Marland, explains, “ 'A Malady of Migration' is a chance to showcase our research in a way that is interesting, informative and sensitive, weaving in stories based on patients’ case histories and experiences. The aim is to make the findings of the research available to wider publics and to stimulate thinking and debate about mental illness in the past and present.”
“The performance, based on an insightful and compassionate interpretation of the historical material, reveals both change and continuity in how we view mental illness, its causes and in particular its relationship to displacement, migration, isolation and poverty.”.
There were expert panel discussions after the Thursday evening performances in each venue and a post performance discussion on Saturday lunchtime, providing opportunities for audience members to discuss the making of the piece with researchers and the theatre company, and to engage in debate on issues raised by the performances.