Making Connections Matter teamed up with Vital Elements to perform Hugging Barbed Wire at theBrighton Festival Fringe on Sunday 8th May and Sunday 15th May at the Komedia Studio Theatre in Brighton.

The event was a combination of the performance work with An Acute Psychotic Episode and friends at Hugging Barbed Wire

Here’s the original press release for the event. Visit the Hugging Barbed Wire website for theYouTube video clip.

Hugging Barbed Wire

After radio interviews and rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, Hugging Barbed Wire a powerful mix of performance, spoken word, live music and humour is based on real-life experiences of psychosis and recovery. It celebrates the courage of the people behind the labels a father fighting for his schizophrenic son, a man coming to terms with his bipolar breakdown and drives a stake through the stigma of mental ill health.

Hugging Barbed Wire combines the true-life stories of Peter Wilson, trying and failing to save his son Ross from an inadequate mental health system, and Steve Walter with his experience of psychosis and asylum. They are accompanied by Peter’s sons, Ross and Owen, on guitar and by singer-songwriter Steve Antoni, who himself struggles with depression and tragically discovered his brother-in-law dying, having taken his own life.

This thought-provoking fusion of personal experience, music, humour and participatory exercises has proven to be very effective. It challenges preconceptions about mental illness (psychosis in particular), using entertaining, interactive and dramatic techniques that contrast vividly with the factual information and graphic illustrations of the effects and experience of psychosis provided by the mental health establishment.

Steve Walter and Steve Antoni received glowing reviews for An Acute Psychotic Episode, based on Steve Walter’s book Fast Train Approaching, at the Edinburgh Fringe (2009) and Brighton Festival Fringe (2008), and Peter and Ross Wilson have also been celebrated by many audiences, including schools and the NHS.

Peter Wilson says:

The title song, “Hugging Barbed Wire”, was written by Owen (16) about his brother Ross becoming psychotic at 20. It was also how it felt to be a parent, desperately clinging to your son throughout a three-year psychotic sentence. Sometimes to section is the best care you can give.

The reaction I’ve had from performances is that being prepared to give our story a public airing has helped others to “come out”, to remember, to talk and to challenge the social stigma. We can change the way society thinks. I’ve seen a theatre full of mental health professionals brought to the verge of tears listening to my sons’ music.

Steve Walter says:

Our aim is to connect with audiences in a profound and dynamic way, since mental health goes to the core of our being and touches the very reason, or lack of it, for our existence.

My vision is for mental health to be discussed freely in every part of the country: over coffee, over a pint, without stigma, judgement or gossip.”

The audience is drawn into a powerful emotional journey, executed with passion and surety of purpose. Walter soars beyond the pitfalls of the self-obsessed misery memoir, describing instead a small but important history of a human triumph. The blend of poetry, confessional prose and performance is hugely enhanced by the music and song of Steve Antoni, whose contribution effortlessly switches the pace and tone of the performance without ever losing the theme.

Jim Ferguson on An Acute Psychotic Episode
Edinburgh Evening News, Friday 14th August 2009

Visit Hugging Barbed Wire for Peter, Ross and Owen’s story…

See more of Steve’s story in Fast Train Approaching…

Brighton Festival Fringe 2011