Can’t Stop, Can’t Stop, a new play about living with OCD

We can’t wait to see this solo theatrical performance, written and performed by Sam Ross! In this article Sam explains why he wrote Can’t Stop Can’t Stop and how it’s success, including several awards, has encouraged him to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year.

"The year before I started working on Can’t Stop Can’t Stop, my OCD began to worsen dramatically. I had just moved 130 miles north from my hometown of Cambridge to study English and Theatre at the University of Sheffield. On the surface, I felt like I settled into my new environment and student life well. However, the internal struggle of coping with a mental illness became harder to cope with on my own. My mental health deteriorated fairly rapidly – after 10 weeks up in Sheffield, it got to a point where it became almost unbearable to walk to and from campus, fearful I’d get triggered by something and stuck in a rut performing tireless compulsive routines for two hours or more. It got so bad that my dad had to drive up north in the middle of the night as I was left shaking, screaming and disintegrating in the claustrophobic environment of my bedroom.

‘My ambition was to create a unique and honest portrayal of a much-misunderstood mental disorder.’

So, when it came to devising a short 15-minute performance for my theatre assessment that first semester, my mental illness was at the forefront of my mind. At the time, there were very few theatrical depictions of OCD – Wish List by Katherine Soper being the only play I found that explicitly explored the challenges of living with it. My ambition was to create a unique and honest portrayal of a much-misunderstood mental disorder. I wanted to express how it felt to live with the condition and understand better how and why it plagued me.

I first performed the show in front of a small audience of friends and tutors in February 2017. A friend who had seen this initial production suggested I perform it at Platform Festival, an annual charity arts event held at the Students Union. This second performance received an overwhelmingly positive reception, and I went on to win Best Theatre Show at the awards ceremony following the festival, as well as an Emerging Artists Award, which gave me the opportunity to perform a further developed version of the play at Theatre Deli Sheffield, a professional performance venue in town. I was also encouraged to enter my show into the National Student Drama Festival – the chairman of the festival himself came to judge the third Sheffield performance, and at the beginning of this year I was thrilled to learn that it had been selected for the 2018 festival. Following on from its greater reception at the week-long event, I have undertaken to organise a run of the show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

‘My hope is that this show will encourage audiences to actively find out more about the condition.’

Besides the numerous misconceptions and trivialisations of OCD – that people who have it like things to be neat, or like to wash their hands all the time, or like to hoard things – what frustrated me about current public awareness of this disorder was how people didn’t know how to recognise someone suffering from severe compulsions (besides commonly held stereotypes), or more importantly how to help and support them. One of the core aims of my show is therefore to show in specific terms what comprises OCD - mainly intense intrusive thoughts and fears compelling sufferers to perform exhausting repetitive actions – and to explain how non-sufferers can help and support friends and family with the illness. I feel that a basic knowledge of ‘mental health first aid’ should be widely taught and understood. My hope is that this show will encourage audiences to actively find out more about the condition. This is why welfare materials are readily accessible for audience members after every performance, including a sheet of resources that inspired the show, and a short guide about how to support OCD sufferers.

‘I’d like to think that researching, developing and performing Can’t Stop Can’t Stop has empowered me to transcend my fears and get on with my everyday life.’

Since my first semester at university, my mental health has greatly improved, partly as a result of regularly taking my medication. I’d like to think however that researching, developing and performing can’t stop can’t stop has taught me ways to cope with daily triggers and intrusive thoughts, and has empowered me, even through the worse moments, to transcend my fears and get on with my everyday life.

My show ‘can’t stop can’t stop’ will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August, details of the show’s run here are below alongside a link to our GoFundMe page where we are currently raising money to make this venture possible and reach as wide an audience with the important messages of this show as we can.

Any donation large or small is welcome to help make this venture possible. Please click here to find out more and donate."

Performance details:

Dates: 1st-27th August (excluding 3rd, 8th, 13th, 17th, 20th & 24th)

Venue: C Royale (Venue 6), Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22 George Street, EH2 2PQ

Run time: 55mins

Suitability: 16+. Contains themes and elements some may find distressing - for more information visit our website

Purchase tickets for Can't Stop Can't Stop at the Edinburgh Fringe here

Tickets are available for the preview in Sheffield on July 20th at The Cellar/DINA, Backfields, Sheffield S1 4HP. Purchase tickets here