The Shopkeeper Project
'The Shopkeeper Project' - Video produced by Panoptical Ltd
A thought-provoking duet that uses contemporary dance and comedy to explore one man’s struggle between his outward-facing persona and his inner-battle with depression.
Short film in development
(release Autumn 2021)
Sandrine Monin, Choreographer
The seed of project originated from my experience of living with someone suffering from depression, as well as my own; observing its impact on everyday tasks and how physical and almost tangible it could feel at times. Hence, the idea of creating depression as a character; an entity in itself.
From one conversation to another, testimonies started multiplying and I was stunned by the amount of people I knew who suffered from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. What struck me the most was the number of men and their initial reluctance to talk about it, but also the immediate relief felt once they started opening up!
That’s how I started the original research for a show, reading stories, filling surveys, interviewing people, researching in the studio. We shared our findings and collated feedback which were extremely encouraging: people recognised themselves in the performance, felt understood and less alone, they thought dance was a very eloquent way of depicting depression.
We were ready to take on the next stage of the research, when Covid-19 hit.
Lockdown and the pandemic have been particularly tough on people and we saw mental health issues increase dramatically. Small businesses have been heavily affected and we’ve seen significant inequality in the way different communities have been impacted.
During the previous stage of research, we had already identified our main character as a struggling independent business owner. Little did we know how prophetic it would be.
Furthermore, I had been looking into intersectionality in mental health: how differently communities were affected, but also how their perception of the issue was, how opened or stigmatised it could be, making it sometimes difficult to reach out for help.
These are the reasons why I had to find a way to further the project within the restrictions imposed by the current context. That is why, we will be going into communities, interviewing small independent business owners and transforming their personal stories into a short film where everyone can recognise themselves, as well as offering movement-based workshops that in themselves contribute to better mental health.
The work is too relevant, too necessary, not to be happening.
About the project...
The project revolves around three ambitions.
Firstly, the investigation of a collaboration between contemporary dance and comedy.
Secondly the desire to create work touching on mental health issues and depression, to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around the topic - specifically in men.
To finish, the work takes a look at the precarious situation of many independent business owners - situation exacerbated this year by Covid-19.
The creative questions will explore how the two media can complement each other; how spoken words and movements can be combined to create a unique language to raise the issue, engage with the audience and open a dialogue on a topic that needs to be openly discussed.
In this intent, the project will explore the development of a poignant duet, where one actor and one dancer give life to funny and relatable characters through comedy and dance, while underlying some darker societal problems.
About the outreach...
This exciting project will make a priority to reach out and engage with a wide and diverse audience.
Throughout the research and development, the artists will organise outreach visits in mental heath charities and groups, bringing dance and theatre in new fields.
Workshops, classes, conversations and invitations to sharing will be put in place, gathering feedback and making sure the work remains relatable and accessible to a broad audience.
A call-out campaign was put in place to develop a way to connect audiences with the creative process, asking for their input, to share stories of mental health and their relationship to the topic.
A series of interviews with independent business owners will also take place this year.
About the future of the work...
This activity is the beginning of a long-term plan Sandrine has to establish herself as a Yorkshire based contemporary dance choreographer & company.
With the support of her well-connected dance network in Leeds and in the UK, Sandrine's activities are dedicated to reaching new, wide and diverse audience - particularly many who have not seen contemporary dance before - and present accessible, relatable and high-quality work.
What people say...
I haven't thought about depression being expressed physically. Seeing it manifested in a physical way really gets the point across better than trying to explain it.
It's an eloquent way of getting across what depression feels like.
The concept is unique and new. What I loved about it was the sensitivity around the relationship. I think it was cleverly done in terms of working the body, the individual as a metaphor.
The fact that it is with a non-dancer tells us that we can create art in a way that has a message for all of us.
The Shopkeeper did an exceptional job, already, in conveying the experience of depression, what it feels like, the weight of it.
I am really excited to see narratively where it ends.