Declaration is a one woman show staring a charming, energetic woman with a charisma that filled the entire room called Sarah Emmott. As soon as I took my seat Sarah approached me asking direct questions. "Who is this sat next to you" "Why are you friends with her?” “Why does your friendship work?" From this moment, Sarah’s curiosity and her search for answers to questions continued throughout her performance.
Declaration is essentially an autobiographical story about all aspects of living with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). The theatre setting was chairs around the outside of the room where Sarah and her interesting box of larger than life props took centre stage. Props included a huge beach ball, a loud speaker and a cash register. Sarah’s performance involved running, dancing, dressing up and even singing (with audience participation!). She also shared her moments with the audience of feeling angry, confused and desperately isolated in relation to her realisation that she was ‘different’.
Poignant moments from her life are highlighted throughout the performance. She describes being at school and trying to follow rules which didn’t really make sense to her. Rules needed to make sense. Her initial visit to the Doctors informed her that she should stay away from sugar and avoid E124 at all costs. This didn’t really help her and so she carries on living with a character that was different to others.
The performance was moving and thought provoking in relation to whether providing a label for people is actually beneficial. A standout moment was her experience when she finally went to the Doctors to find out what was ‘wrong’ with her. She received her diagnosis alone ' in a quiet room' and immediately felt as though she had lost part of herself and that she was leaving with a label for everyone to see. “I felt everyone could see my abnormality”, she tells the audience.
It seemed that Sarah’s desire for the performance was to share with the audience that there are so many challenges in having ADHD that go on behind closed doors that we are not always aware of. Declaration was clearly Sarah opening the door to her life and sharing it in an attempt to help others. I believe this was entirely successful.
Extracts on film from her mother and also her wife added another dimension to the show and demonstrated how people close to Sarah coped. Whilst this was informative, it possibly wasn’t essential to the performance as Sarah’s story that was incredibly vivid was enough. However, it was clear that despite challenges her loved ones would not change anything about her under any circumstances.
The performance was sensitive to potential distresses that audience members may have had as before and after the performance there was a quiet space that that people could go to who needed support. This was hosted by a mental health practitioner.
Declaration is a refreshingly honest story that that opened my eyes to the complexities of providing a label and how this affects individuals. The autobiographical approach that allowed Sarah to tell her story was for me, better than any mental health text book could provide.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 24th June 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★