'Summer Camp For Broken People' delves into the lives of 'Emily,' a 40-something single mother who is sent to The Priory for 'intense psychiatric day patient therapy' following a sexual assault. We're with her as she has to negotiate rehabilitation, the challenging therapeutic environment, and the delightful home world she shares with her daughter 'Maisie'. This semi-autobiographical one-woman play examines how mental illness influences our lives, our capacity for grief, and how to reassemble a broken person.
With two chairs, cupboards, a door and tiled walls, the show examines mental health and sexual abuse, but it also examines; parenthood, healing, the strength of the human spirit, and, love.
The summary does not do the show justice. It is incredibly emotional and powerful. Emily Beecher’s presence is incredible to watch. The power of her words and her presence makes you forget that this is a one-woman show. Simple audio is used to fill in for other characters and we watch the impact it has on Emily.
Besides the emotional rollercoaster Emily takes us on, the comedy hits. From making sure unicorn ears look perfect to a daughter who prefers her sleepy mother take her down the stairs and coffee being a miracle worker, the comedy is used to show Emily’s way of dealing with her trauma and the normalcy she has with her daughter. And Emily's delivery in her neon pink heels is absolutely hilarious.
Yet the normal sense is a facade and slowly Emily bursts. She has days where she's not fine, days where everything is too much. Those days comedy can’t be used to hide from what she’s feeling. The way days change so fast is genius using a simple projector to tell us days have changed. With each day, Emily is different, from fine to not being fine to being fine again. The simplicity works and feels real. The days where she’s not fine, explosive goes so fast, as if not wanting to dwell on those days and just go back to hiding, is just incredible to watch. You don’t know when another day is set but the quick switches of emotion that Emily displays are beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
The use of a projector shines when facts about the speed of cell growth show up every now and then. It doesn’t make sense till the end when Emily states how cells and organs change and are replaced every few months. And how that change means she doesn’t have the same body she had when she was assaulted- that she would never get her old self back but maybe that was okay.
This was heartwarming, heart clenching and no words could describe how powerful Emily is.
The show is on next week in London before moving to Edinburgh so do check it out. Prepare some tissues though!