SICK! Lab is a four-day festival exploring mental health, bodies and the mind, and the personal complexities of living in an imperfect society.
Have you ever eaten a meal alone and suddenly become acutely aware of how quiet everything is when there’s nothing to distract you? You could be in the noisiest restaurant but when it’s just you and your mind – no book, no phone – you start to realise why philosopher Pascal Blaise once wrote “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” (Similarly, Louis CK spoke of this phenomenon in this wonderful clip.)
SICK! Lab (9-12 March) is a programme of performances, discussions and talks on couches unpicking the mind and the body, identity and trauma, and asking how personal battles come to define us physically and mentally. That said, it’s not gloomy; it’s a place to take the universal questions that plague us. In You’re Not Alone, for instance, Kim Noble tries to cut through the loneliness of modern society and get close to other people, seeking connection in tower blocks, supermarkets and on Facebook.
If you prefer your philosophy pint-sized one event draws on Only Fools and Horses Wisdom
Meanwhile, in Fake It ‘til You Make It (also part of this year’s Wonder Women festival), performance artist Bryony Kimmings responds to the silence around male depression through a show featuring her partner, Tim Grayburn, a non-acting account manager at a top advertising firm, who has severe clinical depression.
There’s the chance to watch new performance works-in-progress at Test Lab, in which sketches and segments of new works by a variety of artists exploring social health and wellbeing are opened up to an audience, and in Open Space: The Future of Identity the conference format is turned upside down- this is an ‘un’conference in which the audience leads a discussion.
On The Couch is an all-day affair taking place on 10 March, with a speakers including poet (and Chancellor of University of Manchester) Lemn Sissay MBE, Professor Anthony Redmond OBE (Professor of International Emergency Medicine), Briony Kimmings, Kim Noble and artist Hetain Patel (whose Who Am I? Think Again TED Talk has been watched almost 2.5 million times) and more. It’s £15 for the day, and looks set to be a fascinating series of thought-provoking talks (full programme here).
Meanwhile, if you prefer your philosophy pint-sized, there’s Bar Flies Philosophy: The Trigger’s Broom Paradox, in which theatre company Quarantine draw on the (possible) wisdom of Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. We Brits are living in the Age of Stress, with about 10 million working days a year lost to that complex and expansive mental state and, as ever, SICK! brings a much-needed discussion about our collective and individual mental health into a public space.