Award-winning cabaret duo HOUSE OF BLAKEWELL are collaborating with charity Anxiety UK to address mental health issues through musical theatre.
I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS, by musical pair Harry Blake and Alice Keedwell and produced by Hannah Elsy Productions, draws on Alice’s personal experiences and hopes to shed light on an often misunderstood issue.
Harry and Alice hoped their musical – which runs at Vault Festival from 21-25 February – would entertain first and foremost, but also encourage people to talk about their experiences.
Alice said: “Certainly for me, that’s been really helpful: just to share these things.
“We don’t want it to be an advice show of ‘how to overcome things’; it’s more a sharing of an experience.”
She added: “It’s obviously been quite an exposing and vulnerable process for me, in a good way.
“For all of us, it’s been an interesting experience in introspection and understanding you just don’t know what’s going on in someone’s mind.”
Harry revealed the duo often chose to tackle weighty themes through comedy because it was what they did best.
He said: “The thing with anxiety is: it’s relentless and unstopping. So what we are trying to do is portray that, while keeping the show light and full of variety.”
He added: “We like to approach bigger themes through comedy because it’s a great way to bring people on-side. And there is comedy in all these situations.
“We didn’t ever want to make a really serious piece of issue theatre, but we wanted to approach the story in a light and unexpected way.”
Alice explained the show’s aim was to produce something relatable for its audience.
She said: “The story itself is about a woman who’s moved to a new town and the struggles she faces with everyday things.
“In a way, the situations are quite light and seemingly small, but [the show] shines a light on how these things can be a struggle for some people.”
During the musical, Harry will play Alice’s anxiety, a method that became an important tool in Alice’s therapy.
He said: “I am taking on the role of Alice’s anxiety at various points within the show, as something Alice found very useful when she was in her therapy was the idea of, rather than thinking of herself as anxious person, she was a person affected by anxiety, and so she separated those two and recognised it when it came along.
“So we took that metaphor and thought about making it into a double act, and it happens to fit with the kind of personas we have in our show.”
Alice said: “And it allows us to play with different ways and forms of representing.”
The duo also revealed they had been in touch with Anxiety UK and had invited volunteers from the charity to rehearsals next week.
On appearing the Vault Festival Alice said: “It’s such a brilliant festival, we always love being there and we tend to find audiences are really open.”
Harry added: “And the bar is great.”
Producer Hannah Elsy admitted she was excited to support another production during the festival.
She said: “As an independent producer, I’m excited to be bringing another entirely new show to Vault which is a fantastic hub for new work.”