DDN November 2023 DDN_November_2023 | Page 12

THERAPY www . 4umtheatre . org / anonymous-drama


Anonymous drama has the potential to explore painful subjects in a therapeutic way , says 4Um Theatre ’ s Mark MacNicol

Our ‘ anonymous drama ’ ( AD ) programme has been supporting people in recovery , both in residential settings and community groups , for several years now – with spectacular results . When I ’ m describing it to someone who has never heard of it , I usually say it ’ s like ‘ drama therapy ’ for people who often have no interest in either drama or therapy .

The unique elements include 1 . Anonymity – Participants are
working with fictional characters so no one in the session knows the difference between what ’ s real and what ’ s fiction . 2 . Programming – The programme has been broken down into session plans with safeguarding guides so that they don ’ t need to be delivered by drama or therapy-type professionals – they can be delivered locally by support staff or volunteers . 3 . Opportunity – Giving noncreative ‘ civilians ’ the opportunity to take part in things like improvisation and role play .
We also deliver sessions across the UK using our own experienced delivery teams – some of whom are drama or therapy type professionals , while some are support staff or volunteers . Some residential or community groups don ’ t have
the available budget to bring in our delivery teams , so the remote session plan model was developed to extend the reach of the work and ensure that lack of budget and resources wouldn ’ t be a barrier .
If we need advice or interventions for our physical health of course we all know we can engage with medical professionals like GPs . We can also do our own research and seek to improve our physical health via things like diet and exercise .
I believe the same applies to our mental health . Yes , we can engage with mental health professionals and without a doubt they provide a valuable service . However , the ethos of AD is that we ’ re capable of exploring our own mental health and emotional
wellbeing , without depending on professionals .
Glasgow University recently completed an impact study on AD and the results reaffirmed what we already knew from the feedback of thousands of participants . Taking part in the AD programme has a positive impact on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of participants , and ultimately supports them on their recovery journey .
I have been writing , directing and producing for film and theatre for 15 years , and my introduction to the concept of using creative practices for therapeutic gains was seven years ago . I was invited into a maximum-security prison to work with a group of ten inmates on a new theatre programme . We started with