A Strangeness in Mind
Chris Elwell, theatre director, writer, and CEO of the young people's theatre company Half Moon, made 'A Strangeness in Mind' in response to his conversation with Özlem Eylem.
This is how he got there...
Chris Elwell is the Director/CEO of Half Moon - www.halfmoon.org.uk - the UK’s leading small-scale young people’s venue and touring company and a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England). He is a director/writer, trainer and theatre producer, specialising in professional theatre for young audiences. He has a strong track record in the development and delivery of work with an emphasis upon inclusion, particularly in the field of cultural and disability diversity, and socio-economic disfranchisement. Chris has directed and written of over 50 productions, including most recently directing Off The Grid (2019), Crowded (2020) and the writer of What Once Was Ours (2018) all for teenage audiences, and all winners of the Off West End Theatre Awards Best Production for 13+ Audiences. He has also written and directed a canon of work for babies and young children including Baa Moo Yellow Dog (which was also adapted for TV). Chris is the curator of Exchange for Change, a sector significant artform development programme that challenges perceptions of the work produced in the young people’s sector. This extensive programme particularly engages artists from non-theatre backgrounds (design, digital/new media, dance, spoken word etc.), those who are under-represented in the sector. Much of this work tours nationally through Half Moon Presents, the company’s producing arm. In 2017, Chris was awarded an MBE for services to theatre and young people. Before working at Half Moon, Chris was a senior lecturer in arts education at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Head of Education (London) at the RSC, Head of Community and Education at English National Ballet, starting his career as a teacher of drama and special needs in secondary schools.
Özlem grew up in Cyprus and completed her bachelor in Psychology at Teesside University in Middlesbrough in the UK and completed a Masters degree in Psychology (clinical emphasis) at University of Nicosia in Cyprus and in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP) Kings College University of London in the UK.
In 2013, she got a personal grant from the European Commission for her PhD study, and she took up her PhD post at VU Amsterdam University in 2013 in a research project entitled: “Reducing suicidal ideation among Turkish migrants in the Netherlands and in the UK: Effectiveness of an online intervention”. Her project has been supervised by Professors Ad Kerkhof and Annemieke van Straten in the Netherlands and by Professor Kameldeep Bhui in the UK.
During her PhD studies, she was based in the Centre for Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London as a honorary researcher. While she was conducting her PhD research in the UK, she was awarded with the Early Career Researcher, Centre for Mind in Society Queen Mary University of London. She co-designed a social media campaign together with the Women`s Platform UK aiming to initiate dialogue about suicide in the Turkish speaking communities. Their campaign “Moments/Anlar” brought stakeholders, academics and various sectors together to talk about suicide in different platforms and generated publicity. As a result, the campaign has been awarded with the Community Engagement Award in the Individual Category by the Centre for Public Engagement Queen Mary University of London.
In the last phase of her PhD study, Özlem has worked for Derman, a Non-Governmental Organisation providing bi-lingual psychological and advocacy services to Turkish-speaking migrants in a partnership project with the East London NHS Trust in London. She developed and piloted psycho-educational awareness sessions aiming to improve suicide literacy and suicide related stigma in the Turkish-speaking communities in London.
Upon completing her PhD, she worked as a senior researcher and a lecturer in the department of Clinical Neuropsychology at VU Amsterdam University in the Netherlands. Currently, Özlem is still based in Centre for Psychiatry as a honorary researcher. Additionally, she works as a research lead in Cerina, a company developing mobile evidence based psychological interventions in care and treatment of psychological disorders. Also, she works as a consultant with the Pakistan Institute of Living in conducting research and capacity building of staff in the context of global mental health.
on temporalities of response to inequalities expressed during COVID-19
You mentioned that as a theatre company you are aiming to respond to the moment - that is fascinating because it is much slower in academia.
on anxiety during the pandemic
on Özlem's Cypriot heritage and connecting with Turkish speaking migrants
You've connected with Turkish speaking communities - do you find your heritage an advantage or disadvantage? I always find when I make a play, that the least successful plays are the ones where I'm too close to the issues. The converse is that when you're very connected with that community, or that issue, you're able to understand in an in-depth way.
on Half Moon's Crowded: transformation and dramaturgical tensions
The young characters, very conscious of other people's opinions and expectations, had this heavy burden on their shoulders... Once they were in the festival, we saw their transformation... In the crowd, it was a different world - we saw their relief.
on expressing complex causal relationships between patriarchy, depression and suicide
Özlem Eylem wrote this response to her conversation with Chris Elwell
Chris and Özlem's conversation was facilitated by young people's theatre company Half Moon. Based in Limehouse, East London, Half Moon gives young people an opportunity to experience the best in young people’s theatre, both as a participant and as an audience member. Their activity includes a season of professional plays for young and family audiences, including teenagers, national touring productions and an extensive creative learning programme, including eight youth theatres. Half Moon’s expertise is in supporting artists and young people at every stage of their creative development, providing a gateway to engagement, offering pathways for progression and experimentation and then disseminating outcomes within the wider cultural sector, through performances, touring productions, open dialogue and continuing professional development.
Together with Queen Mary's Centre for Public Engagement, Arts and Culture commissioned Half Moon to explore those topics and questions most urgent to the communities with whom Half Moon works. The commission represents Queen Mary's core committment to support and celebrate the critical role of arts organisations within our East End communities -- cultural and academic -- and beyond.