Analyse Thou is new Oxford theatre company Yonder Cloud’s first play. The comedy drama features three Shakespearean characters on the proverbial couch talking through their problems with a therapist.

And for Yonder Cloud founders Jeremy Allen and Lee Woodward, there is a rich treasure trove of candidates to choose from.

Jeremy and Lee – Photographer: David Fleming

“Think about all the characters that might require an analyst’s help – from Lady Macbeth’s obsession with hand cleanliness during the pandemic, Ophelia being confined to a nunnery, Bottom’s lack of income as a freelancer…. all are possible storylines”, founder Jeremy points out.

“There is enough torment and mental anguish in Shakespeare’s work to keep us going for the foreseeable future”

Keen to help those with mental health problems who find accessing the arts hard at the best of times, let alone during the pandemic, Yonder Cloud has teamed up with local mental health charities Oxfordshire Mind, Response and OCD Action to redress the balance.

And not only will the play debut on Zoom in June to local specific health and social care communities, before being aired to the general public, but the charities volunteers are also helping to script the finished play in a series of workshops.

“We want to give those with mental health issues an authentic voice, a reality, to bring their experiences to life rather than plying them with the public’s perception of mental health. We want to make sure their issues aren’t misrepresented, to find out what’s missing from the conversations around mental health,” Jeremy continues. “And Shakespeare’s myriad characters provide that link with certain conditions….. the possibilities are endless,” he points out. “So for us Shakespeare is a gift.

Some examples? “Well through King Lear we can explore homelessness and senility, Othello could be schizophrenic and dealing with race issues. There is enough torment and mental anguish in Shakespeare’s work to keep us going for the foreseeable future,” Jeremy smiles.

Analyse Thou

And the impetus for Yonder Cloud? “We want to make theatre accessible one story at a time by dramatising the issues that people face through engaging story-telling.

Jeremy volunteers with OCD Action and says he comes across so many people unable to even leave their homes during Covid. “We want to give them some respite, a new form of entertainment and a creative outlet,” Jeremy adds.

Funded by an Arts Council research and development grant and inspired by Oxfordshire’s Creation Theatre Company and its pioneering live Zoom productions, Analyse Thou has also been made possible thanks to a grant from the Society for Theatre Research and the Oxfordshire Councillor Priority Fund.

Analyse Thou will initially be zoomed to audiences living in homes managed by Oxfordshire mental health organisations Response and Oxfordshire MIND on Friday June 11, but a ticketed event will be performed online on Saturday 12th June. A live version of the show is programmed at The Old Fire Station next year.