Post-Traumatic Stress DISorder or REorder?

The University of Manchester Drama Society’s 2017 Autumn Showcase is quickly approaching this month so make sure you put all the dates in your diary! (Dates and venues are listed at the bottom of this page and tickets available from the Student Union). In this post, 2nd year Drama student Sophie McRae discusses Jade Fox’s play ‘Returning’, a challenging exploration of PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress.

In a Ted Talk, Dr. Jan Seahorn makes a parallel between PTSD and the well-known nursery rhyme, ‘Humpty Dumpty’, she says “one minute he’s on the wall eating a hamburger and drinking beer” and then he falls and “the next minute he is a scrambled egg. His mind, his body, his emotions are very different.” This comparison clearly highlights the idea that one traumatic incident has the power to completely change your mind state and way of life. This stress can cause things such as: insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks; overwhelming waves of emotion that anyone would do anything to escape from. There are numerous ways in which you can develop PTSD, it is extremely common in war veterans due to the horrific and unforgettable incidents that they encounter. More recently, cyber-bullying has lead to a huge number of young deaths and people living with PTSD. Young minds just can’t cope with this amount of emotional stress. A few years ago there were 81 young suicides as a result of cruel and abusive cyber-bullying, two of whom were 11-years-old and one was 12.

Returning in rehearsal

Jade Fox’s play, Returning explores PTSD within the army but primarily focuses on the emotions associated with PTSD, making it a lot broader and applicable to anyone suffering with it. It follows the lives of Jo and Michael who have been living a life of rules, strategy and explosive situations as service people. It shows the challenge of finding a life back in London after the trauma that has completely altered their mental state and their lives. Eleanor Boag, a second year student who plays the Therapist in the play, has a particular personal reason for being involved:

I was drawn to this play as I grew up in an army family, my dad was in the army for 33 years and served in Bosnia, The Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as being based in different areas of the UK. He used to be away for very long periods of time, so it was very difficult for him to adjust when he returned, as well as for us.”

Her Dad, Colin Boag, explained how tough his service was but also how it strengthened him as a person,

“I learned a lot about building teams, being part of a team, leadership, how to get the best out of people.  I have strong values that have become part of my DNA and are how I still try to live my life.  I believe I’m a much better person and a much better citizen as a result of my long service.   I saw some horrendous things that will stay with me forever.  It means that I am very intolerant of vindictiveness, bullies, deliberate oppression and the abuse of power by the strong over the weak.  It also means that I celebrate life because I have seen how easy it is taken away.”

For Eleanor, the rehearsal process for Returning resonates with her Dad’s experience and conversations she has had with him. There are scenes in which Michael and Jo start to open up and explain in detail the way that their PTSD is making them feel, which Eleanor says gave her an insight into the emotions that her Dad was hiding and felt he wasn’t able to express. She believes that the interactions between the two characters and their families depict a friendly and positive way to talk to people who are suffering. Eleanor hopes that,

“the play will be helpful to audiences, as well as to me, to see underneath the fronts put up, and how to help those around you who may not be willing to ask for help themselves.”

Jan Seahorn says that PTSD “is not a DISorder, it is a REordering of your neural networks and sensory pathways so that you can survive in a really dangerous situation”. It is practising a new way of thinking and coping with a new way of life. It is a hidden wound, it is invisible, you can’t see, hear or feel another person suffering. People need to see this play because it offers a better understanding and appreciation of what it feels like for an individual to have to deal with PTSD every single day.

Returning is on from the 22nd – 24th November 2017, 7.30pm at Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks.

Autumn Showcase Dates

Holes by Tom Blasden 15th-18th November at the John Thaw Studio Theatre in the Martin Harris Centre.

Returning by Jade Fox 22nd-24th November at the Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks.

Hitler’s Dad by Ollie Norton-Smith / Therese and Isabelle by Wanda Pendrié 29th November-1st December at the Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks.

Pomona by Alistair McDowell 4th-6th November at the Kings Arms, Salford.

Action Man by Lizzie Morris 12th-14th December, International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

Tickets available here OR they can be purchased on the door.


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