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NoMad: written and performed by Nell Hardy | Review

How does one know if one is mad if one is indeed mad? Or perhaps we shouldn’t even say ‘mad’ these days – people aren’t committed to the madhouse, or sent to the asylum: they are admitted to a secure psychiatric hospital. Whatever such facilities are called, they have, as Nell Hardy’s monologue describes, their own vocabulary set, with buzzwords, phrases and acronyms, which are ultimately largely meaningless, at least to anyone who isn’t a psychiatrist or training to be one.

Nell Hardy in NoMad by Alessandra Davison
Nell Hardy in NoMad by Alessandra Davison

In a fast-paced narrative that contains as much dramatization as exposition (a balance not easy to get right), what led her to be noticed at all by health officials is a set of complex circumstances. I wondered whether the inclusion of childhood experiences was going to be yet another storyline in which stunted development ends up being the cause for problems in adulthood. It’s far more nuanced than that here, and if anything, the story is a stark reminder of how relatively easy it is to find oneself without a roof over one’s head.

The timing of this production happens to tie in with recent parliamentary announcements about an increase in funding for the social care sector to be paid for by an increase in National Insurance contributions. The show does not attempt to score any political points about why, for instance, it took eighteen months after a critical incident took place to receive a visit from a community nurse in response (by which point, she wasn’t living in the same property she was at the time, and from the details given in the story, it would be reasonable to assume her NHS record should have been updated to reflect her new address). Issues of this nature are frustrating but hardly unusual in health and social care.

The descriptions of past events in some ways leaves nothing to the imagination, such is the level of detail, deep enough to unmistakably follow what’s happening but not so deep as to come across as pedantic or overkill. Whatever her psychological state may or may not have been, she retains enough perception to deduce that the staff are not being friendly to her in order to make polite conversation or have a personal interest: the pen scratching that begins, on their part, immediately after their little chat, tells Hardy all she needs to know.

The topic of homelessness is meticulously explored, with some striking examples, such as what it is really like to be soaked to the skin thanks to heavy rain, and not having any dry clothes at all to change into. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by many that London doesn’t have as many public conveniences as it used to, and the consequences for the homeless population, and Hardy in particular, are both (ahem) revealing and surprisingly amusing.

It’s an uncomfortable watch, and it’s also a very compelling one. Even when she had a roof over her head again, she describes herself as an “NHS bed blocker” – having been discharged from the psychiatric ward, there is no fixed abode to which she can be sent. A challenging and engrossing production that leaves no stone unturned in its quest to provide its audiences with the full picture in the worlds of homelessness and mental wellbeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

There’s a bed for me in a psychiatric ward.
So no, they can’t tick the box for homeless.
I’ve been ready for discharge for months.
So no, they can’t tick the box for madness, either.

No, I’m not mad.
No. I’m not mad.

And they don’t have a box to tick for a NoMad.

Using Nell’s signature blend of whimsy and intensity, her solo show NoMad based on her own lived experiences is a poetic, dizzying journey through the dissociated mind of one woman who has fallen through society’s cracks too many times.

With devastating authenticity, disarming humour and, ultimately, hope, the show demands the question: who gets to decide what madness is in a society that treats people like this?

Autobiographical solo show about homelessness and mental health comes to Arcola Outside

NoMad
Written & Performed by Nell Hardy
Directed by Sandra Preciado
Costume & Set Design by Constance Villemot
Composer & Sound Designer: Alice Boyd
Lighting Designer: Ben Jacobs
Creative Access & Wellbeing Facilitator: Aisling Gallagher
Stage Manager: Maria Cristina Petitti

Wednesday 6th & Thursday 7th October, 6:30pm
Arcola Outside
as part of ‘Today I’m Wiser’ Festival

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1 thought on “NoMad: written and performed by Nell Hardy | Review”

  1. What a talented young woman. Her production should be shown to all relevant ‘professionals’ during their training. Some of whom remain clueless about the real world out there when people find themselves in similar circumstances.

    I do hope this very original and heartfelt production can be given a larger airing, which it truly deserves.

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