Shell Shock is one soldier’s story of coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tommy Atkins’ observations on life on civvy street are poignant, frequently comic and always moving. His over-emotional responses to post office queues, a trip to Ikea, his relationships and family lead to alienation and anger.
Trauma does not have to mean PTSD in the most severe cases imagined. At any level it can cause flashbacks, nightmares, anger and depression – often leading to violence, alcohol and substance abuse, job loss, family breakdown and even suicide. All these topics are covered in the production with the hope sufferers or those close to can connect and identify with the performance and seek help which is available from service charities for all the military community.
Drawn from personal experience, Neil Watkin’s writing is affecting, vernacular and direct, Tom Page’s performance is deeply engaging and haunting. The story, adapted from the original novel Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins, written under the pen name Neil Blower highlights the work of forces charities such as Combat Stress and Help For Heroes.
About The Project
Using the performing arts this project will create a stigma reduction concept that will have broad benefits to both the civilian, serving and veteran community (including their friends and family). It is intended with the aid of grants and funding from supporting organisations to adapt our pilot project into a nationwide production (for 2017). Another aim of the project is to provide an academic evaluation of Shell Shock: the play with the initial focus on understanding the impact of theatre on the audiences’ comprehension and perception of mental illness in a post-military context (the rationale in doing so is because public perception of mental illness is well received under the umbrella of PTSD).
The play is based upon a novel first published in 2011, by Iraq veteran Neil Watkin (writing as Neil Blower), who was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the army and encouraged to take up creative writing through the armed forces charity Combat Stress as part of his treatment.
The beneficiaries of this project are therefore broad. In our proposed 2017 production tour we will be working with a wide audience of interested individuals (from all walks of life) alongside a select invited sample of charity and third sector specialists, military, health and policy specialists (including those with ministerial responsibilities) who will be invited to watch the production at one or more of three strategic venues and ideally at least one major arts festival in 2017. The estimated impact on direct and indirect beneficiaries will be in the region of 10-12,000 people in this initial tour.
During this tour one performance will be developed to provide a showcase Q&A session led by support partners Sussex Armed Forces Network (NHS) and the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University. This event shall be open to the audience and invited guests from NHS England, MoD and other 3rd sector organisations.
The project has been developed in partnership with the Veterans and Families Institute (providing an academic and professional support case for such a scheme) and Eastbourne College providing the production resources and rehearsal space leading to an initial pilot performance in September 2016 (in the college theatre). This pilot will be run with the additional support of the regional (Sussex) Armed Forces Network. The performance will also be filmed to then present to professional bodies to consider feedback and how to develop further with Anglia Ruskin to tour in late spring / early summer 2017.
It is envisaged that the impact of the play will have an immediate effect on audience attitudes towards veterans and mental trauma in general. For the purposes of this work we are considering beneficiaries to be anyone that may be influenced by the messages of this production so in reality the number of people reached will be far in excess of projected numbers.
Shell Shock: the play will seek to contribute to the broad aims and successes of programmes such as The Government–sponsored Time to Change programme, to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination within society and in line with Dr Andrew Murrison’s paper Fighting Fit (2010).
We are always looking for support in terms of spreading the message and believe the more venues and tour dates we can achieve the better the outcome for the whole community. If you have any suggestions for venues or are interested in corporate sponsorship we would love to hear from you. We are also very happy to receive any donations towards our nationwide tour aims.
Production & Creative
Shell Shock is one soldier’s story of coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tommy Atkins’ observations on life on civvy street are poignant, frequently comic and always moving. His over-emotional responses to post office queues, a trip to Ikea, his relationships and family lead to alienation and anger. Drawn from personal experience, Neil Watkin’s writing is affecting, vernacular and direct, Tom Page’s performance is deeply engaging and haunting. The story, adapted from the original novel Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins, highlights the work of charities Combat Stress and Help For Heroes.
Tom Page is a former pupil at Eastbourne College and a wonderfully talented young professional actor, having appeared in a number of TV commercials and the new BBC crime drama series, Cuffs. His recent theatre performance at the Brighton Fringe in The Bula Loop, about a family living with autism, was ‘impressive’ and ‘engaging, entertaining, and eminently believable’ and in Code of Conduct, a new play by John Berry, a Printers Playhouse production also seen at the Brighton Fringe, Tom’s performance as Liam was described as ‘superbly acted’ and ‘haunting’.
If you are interested in the project, either as a venue or potential support partner and would like more information on how to get involved or book Shell Shock the play, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets & Tour Information
Shell Shock is presented by Smokescreen Productions and supported by the Sussex Armed Forces Network, Anglia Ruskin University, Help For Heroes and Combat Stress.
In the autumn of 2016 the Chancellor awarded this project a grant from the LIBOR fund to enable us to develop the production and embark on a number of venues in late spring / early summer 2017.
Please note we may be filming the performance on one or more dates for promotional use. There will also be requests for audience feedback to develop the production further and in line with our evaluation to encouraging the use of performing arts to address stigma and barriers to care, and to develop further research relevant to this area.
In 2017 Shell Shock will be touring number of strategic locations, ideally in reach of larger military communities, army barracks, veterans organisations, interested NHS trusts etc. If you have any suggestions or would like to book the production for a public or private performance please get in touch.
This performance contains adult themes and strong language which some might find offensive. It also features flashing lights, loud sound effects and scenes which some may find upsetting or disturbing.
All tickets priced £12 | £10 concessions | 50% Discount for Veterans & UK Armed Forces Personnel (with ID)