When local artist Shannon Yee became critically ill with a rare brain infection in 2008, she could never have imagined that her experience in hospital undergoing lifesaving treatment would one day provide the inspiration for ‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew,’ her latest artistic work.
Shannon, in collaboration with Paul Stapleton, Anna Newell, Hanna Slättne and Stevie Prickett, supported by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust, Arts Council Northern Ireland, a grant from the Arts & Disability Award scheme (managed by the Arts & Disability Forum on behalf of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaion), the MAC and Sonic Arts Research Centre, is bringing something entirely different to theatres in Northern Ireland this May and June.
In 2008, Shannon became critically ill with a very rare brain infection which led to several lifesaving surgeries, years of rehabilitation and reintegration back into society with a hidden disability.
As part of her recovery Shannon conceived the idea of sharing the story with NI audiences, and doing so in a pioneering way with her neurosurgeon, head injury nurse, and local artists in sound, drama, and choreography.
The result of this partnership is a ground breaking theatrical experience where audience members lie in a hospital bed, wearing an eye mask and headphones and hear the thoughts of the patient, the sounds and voices Shannon heard as she went on her journey toward reassembling her life.
Shannon said: “Little did I think all those years ago when I was lying the acute Neurosurgery Ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital that I would be creating an artwork that would take audiences into a hospital bed, and my head, to share the challenges and triumphs of my deeply personal story of my acquired brain injury. It is a story of terror, discovery, humour, but above all, hope.”
Gilly Campbell, Dance and Drama Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council is pleased to support the development of this new work from an artist who is pushing the boundaries of audience experience, inviting us to step outside the world we know and into the unfamiliar.
“This is a truly pioneering project from an artist who wants to challenge our perception of disability and conventional notions of drama.”
Chris Ledger, Chief Executive Officer of the Arts & Disability Forum, said: “The Arts & Disability Forum has supported Shannon with two consecutive Arts & Disability Awards Ireland grants, enabling her to share in a new way her personal experience of acquired brain injury.
“The ADF is proud to have been able to play a part in the development of this piece via which Shannon has created a way to help develop medical practitioners’ skills in dealing with patients who have brain injury.”
Since May 2014 over 60 people have checked in for their appointment and the feedback has been astounding. “Insightful”, “Hugely effective, immersive experience”, “Genuinely poignant”, “Allows you to have the patient experience, without being paralysed by fear”.
‘Reassembled, Slightly Askey’ will be playing at The Playhouse in Londonderry from May 11 to May 15.