In the circus of the mind panic is a cage

Article by Cassandra Ramsay @cassramsay


A truly collaborative work telling that shares and explores the effects of mental illness on young people, PANIC comes to Crack Theatre Festival.

Open Cage Ensemble’s Erika and Scott Gelzinnis have produced a contemporary devised performance which features original music, verbatim writing and circus, with young artists aged 12 to 18 who have used their experiences of anxiety, fear and hope as stimulus.

As well as the twenty young people involved, the mother and son team were supported by contributing artist Rachel Jackett and Tantrum Theatre.

Erika has worked with disadvantaged youths for the past twenty years, and also had her own experiences as an artist living with mental illness. She has seen the positive benefits of arts involvements for these marginalised young people, and in the way they are perceived by their peers.

“The project is in response to the need for young people to have a forum to discuss mental health issues in a real and positive light” says Scott who is the musical director of the work.

A true family affair, Erika’s other sons Harry and Cosmo Gelzinnis have also been a part of the process as performers and composers.

“Involvement in the arts has kept [our] family together” says Scott.

Erika also proudly acknowledges that “my difficulties and challenges have been an asset in Panic and by being functional and professional I hope to break some of the stigma I have experienced in the past (as well as my self-stigma).”

This development stage of Panic is focused on the experiences and voices of the young artists involved.  Next year the project will develop and young people in Erika and Scott’s community (and beyond) will learn writing, stagecraft, devising and circus skills.

“I am passionate about hearing voices of shy, marginalised or unconfident people of all ages” says Erika.

As well as Tantrum Theatre offering space to the project, rehearsal space was also donated by Newcastle East Primary, and there have also been many greatly appreciated donations from parents of the performers and other artists.


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Open Cage Ensemble