Tackling mental health and other social issues through comedy

It’s a dramatically different approach to mental health – using theatre to educate, entertain, and engage audiences by tackling serious issues with humour.

Suit and Pace is a social enterprise, based in Fife, set up in 2012 by Beth Hamilton-Cardus and Andrew Coull, who met studying at Edinburgh University and were both interested in comedy performance.

Beth said: “We decided to get involved in the 2012 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, so we looked for people to do some stuff in Fife – which is where we live – and to do something that we knew quite a lot from our work. So, we tried to do some humour used in monologues, but around mental health.

“After that, people were very keen for us to do work that basically used our experience in comedy, but also to cover maybe quite challenging issues.

“We work with children and young people and also adults with disabilities, so our aim is to relate to and benefit those groups. We aim to give people a chance to participate, to learn things relevant to them, but we do it in a fun way.”

The comedy pair write all the stories and fit them to the appropriate audience. Some of their stories address serious topics such as mental health, but also issues like homophobia, bullying, and discrimination.

Beth said: “We are given a lot of information about topics or a policy and bring that to life. It is important to pitch it right; it is not mocking something that is very difficult for people.

“The way we handle a story is to always make sure that we use comedy (in a  general) situation, we never use comedy to look to someone personally. We are looking for humour around some people’s situation in a way that’s relaxing and peaceful and they are having fun.

“A lot of things we do are for children like storytelling and we use quite a bit of humour in our stories. Sometimes the stories help children to improve their creativity. The more enjoyable it is the more enthusiastic they are.”

At the moment, Beth and Andrew are working on developing new stories and sessions for the next school term, teaching youngsters how to tell their own stories.

“We work with some schools in Fife and we also got some funding to do storytelling at the local library for under-fives. It is all about teaching children in Scottish culture and getting families having fun together.”

The pair are also involved in the project Learning Differently Theatre, a new group for adults with disabilities at Lochgelly Centre.

Beth said: “Learning Differently is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme in which we do live theatre and work with adults with disabilities to create their own pieces. We are planning to do events for the group in May.”

Suit and Pace are happy to work across Scotland, and tailor their work in theatre, film, and podcasts to suit clients’ needs.

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