EXPRESS AND STAR, Wolverhampton

Sensitive subject is a triumph on stage! Performed to a packed crowd in the intimate space of the Arena Theatre, this powerful story confronts the taboos of depression, self-harm and schizophrenia. Hearing Voices is a divided narrative between the anecdotes of Clare, the patients she met and the opinions of experts on mental illness and its treatment. The six patients are depicted fabulously by performers including Clare Summerskill herself, Donna Combe, Adrian Quinton and Victoria Jeffrey who bring in an array of talents with their music, song and multi roles. The message was informative and empowering but did not lack humour – even the painful narratives of depression were often laced with laughter. On the whole, a difficult piece to fault.


A scathing attack on the way the mentally ill are treated in psychiatric wards, actress Clare Summerskill’s Hearing Voices confronted the taboos of suicide, depression and over-medication, yet still managed to be a fun night at the theatre. Told in a breezy, humorous, matter-of-fact style by Artemis Theatre group, Hearing Voices divided narration between the anecdotes of Clare and the patients she met in care, and between the studied, text-book-like opinions of experts on mental illness and its treatment. The oppressive feel of St Thomas’s and Clare’s fluctuating state of mind was portrayed through shifting lights and the constant comings and goings of a host of supporting characters, brilliantly played by three of Artemis’s finest; Donna Combe, Adrian Quinton and Victoria Jeffrey.

PADDY BAZELEY, Director of Maytree, a sanctuary for the suicidal

“HEARING VOICES”  is very very important and disturbing and you must take it to the next stage (sic). I set up Maytree because of people saying what you are saying,  and dying because the fear of hospital was so great.

DEB ELTHALION, Service User and play interviewee

The play was called Hearing Voices written by a friend I had met at St Thomas’s psychiatric ward what I call the nut house….Please see this play! It’s got humour it is funny to see the way the NHS staff acts like prison wardens with no offers of therapeutic help. What is your mood? High or low? Take these drugs see you on the next ward round. I was a character in this play and it was really good watching the actress play my bits. Because the play was written from recorded interviews it was my words being said and I was very pleased with what I had said and the way the actress portrayed me, it was really funny and it made me shake…. There was a question time after the play and Clare, Tony, and I, three of the six patients in the play sat on stage with the actors and had a discussion with the audience.

A few of the women in the audience made the point that it was too negative and the staff should be portrayed in a better light if Clare wants a sympathetic audience. I vigorously answered her by saying there was no positive nice humane staff members during that stay at St Thomas hospital. And Clare went on to say if there were they would have been in the play.

Clare Summerskill’s play has opened my eyes because the treatment Clare perceived as wrong, in human, unjust, uncalled for, I had been accepting that as the norm because I was a bad naughty bipolar person I felt I deserved it, because I was hyper- manic. However after watching the play seeing just how it was for all of us showed me and the rest of the audience that there is a big problem in the nut house with the NHS, that could be changed, should be changed…but I can’t see it getting any better any time soon. At least thanks to the massive talents of Clare Summerskill you’re hearing our voices.

Comments from Evaluation Forms


“It sounded as if it might be a bit of a dull format but I found it surprisingly entertaining and lively! The script and acting were great, especially with the element of humour.
I love the play and thought it a powerful indictment of the current system of “care” around mental health and how this causes more harm and damage to those already suffering the damaging effects of trauma.”

NHS carer:

“Fantastic! This subject area MUST be brought into the public domain for understanding and stigma reduction.”

Health Care professional:

“I knew from the start that all I saw was true, not fiction based on a few facts. It was a disturbing experience for me as a carer. It did help me see things from a patients’ perspective but I think that the policy makers are the ones directly responsible for the situation. Cuts in funding happen everywhere and this treatment and attitude from the staff if the result.”

Service Users:

“It was very good, well done! I was on the ward many times and I could relate to your feelings.”

“Very near the mark. As a service user I feel it is about time someone exposed the many faults of the system. Well done!”

Member of the Public:

“I found the play excellent and also very shocking. Extremely worrying and utterly plausible. Very well written and enjoyably performed.”