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West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre and Leeds CAMHS join forces to tackle the stigma around mental health

A poignant production which explores young people’s mental health is being created by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Youth Theatre in collaboration with Leeds Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

Written for West Yorkshire Playhouse by Rebecca Manley, Zoetrope follows seven young people as they tackle emotional and behavioural difficulties in a timely exploration of the mental health of our young people and the resources afforded to them.

In preparation for the performance the Zoetrope cast have collaborated with Leeds Community Healthcare’s CAMHS service, inviting both young people and NHS staff into rehearsals to share their insights and experiences. CAMHS provides services for young people under 18 when mental health issues get in the way of daily life.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris said: “This production features young people from all over Leeds who take part in regular activities at the Playhouse. We are really proud of our Young People’s offer with over 500 people getting involved with creative activities every week. This production is a great example of how we like to work – to support young people to express their voices through high quality theatre.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre Director Gemma Woffinden said: “At West Yorkshire Playhouse we strive to make theatre that gives young people a platform to express their ideas about the world with real integrity. By working with CAMHS our young actors have gained an insight into the processes, job roles and most importantly first hand experiences of the challenges faced by young people suffering with mental health issues. It has been a truly valuable experience working with the CAMHS staff and patients in rehearsals.”

Vandhna Sharma, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner, said: “Being involved in Zoetrope has given the CAMHS young people a real sense of confidence and helped them realise how their knowledge and experience has made them the experts. Our CAMHS young people have loved learning about a theatre production and were touched by how polite and considerate the Zoetrope cast are, in particular when they shared their experiences of mental health and the support they received, which helped provide authenticity and depth to the Zoetrope characters.”

The audience get to see young people navigate their way through mental health difficulties and support processes from their perspective, as well as understand the impact it has on every area of their life.”

Zoetrope plays at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 2 – 4 November.

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