A Unity Youth Theatre production
Directed by Carl Cockram & Laura Campbell
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
31st July - 1st August 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Umbrelephant was conceived by the participants in the Unity Youth Theatre, in their search to reveal the causes of mental illness among young people in today's highly pressurised world. In fact it came across that the term pressure was a key reason for the occurrence of most mental problems.

The title of the production derived from the concept of the 'elephant-in-the-room' and bracketing most mental conditions under one umbrella, leading to the many mistaken beliefs prevalent among a large section of the general public.

Audience and actors sat together in a circle in the theatre space, with actors intermittently being highlighted with the use of a spotlight when voicing their thoughts about their 'mental ailment.'

Both at the beginning and at the end of the production two reps, two 'experts' from the YMP , I presume members of the imaginary Youth Minister of Parliament, pontificated about the misfortunes afflicting young people today in Britain in regard to mental illness.

The actors spoke about mental problems, often in anguished tones, affecting young people, including obesity; anorexia; panic attacks; confusion about sexual identity; grieving following a bereavement; not being able to sleep properly; general stress, often caused by pressure, that word again, on getting the required grades in school; lack of confidence in oneself, and suicide tendencies - one memorable scene was seeing someone on an imaginary bridge ready to jump off and fall to their death. When emergency services were called to prevent this tragedy happening, he had disappeared when they arrived.

I was surprised that no mention was made at any point in the 45 minute production about the adverse effects of using social media, particularly on young people.

Some of the characters spoke about the euphoric feeling they would experience of not being stressed.

"What is a normal person?" it is asked towards the end of Umbrelephant. A very good question indeed.

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