Alaska

Theatre (solo show)

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  • Accessibility:
    Sight not needed
    May not apply to all performances. You'll find more information about accessibile performances and how to book tickets in the accessibility tab below.
  • Babes in arms policy: Babies do not require a ticket
  • Policy applies to: Children under 2 years

Description

Alaska is a funny, magical trip to the moon, with singing and dancing thrown in: one woman's extraordinary story of how she survived growing up with severe depression. A raw and powerful performance, with humour, heart and soul, with stunning vocals and beautiful imagery in the storytelling. With one in four of us estimated to experience mental health difficulties at sometime in our lives, this story touches everyone, whether first-hand or through family and friends. 'Exceptionally good... Delivered with energy, charm, emotion, honesty... Food for the soul' (BritishTheatreGuide.info).

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General venue access

  • Sight not needed
  • Accessible entry: From the main reception you can either take the stairs (10 steps) underneath the main stair case and into the basement or the lift just off from the main reception.
  • Wheelchair access type: Building Lift

  • Stairs: 11- 20
    Number of stairs is provided as guidance and is not in addition to any wheelchair access type (lift/ramp etc) stated above.

Each venue can contain several space with different accessibly information. Visit the venue page for full venue accessibility info


How and when to make an access booking

Our access tickets service is available to anyone who:

  • Would like to book specific accessibility services, e.g. a hearing loop, audio description headsets, captioning units, seating in relation to the location of the BSL interpreter
  • Requires extra assistance when at a venue
  • Has specific seating requirements
  • Is a wheelchair user
  • Requires a complimentary personal assistant ticket to attend a performance

lydia towsey 49 days ago

Alaska by Cheryl Martin / British Council Showcase, Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Cheryl Martin’s Alaska is billed as a “funny, magical trip to the moon, with singing and dancing thrown in: one woman's extraordinary story of how she survived growing up with severe depression.” Such a description accurately conveys the complexity and fluidity of the mental health theme it addresses. Chameleon like, I loved the way it also pushed at the boundaries of and questioned what a performance might be.

When a performance is going well there is, arguably, a clear line between artist and audience. People are there to listen, and are happy to sit there and listen to the artist, even willing to pay to do so. When the show is going less well, arguably, the boundary is more blurred; there’s less distinction between audience and artist, which is probably why people feel more inclined to heckle. This was a relevant consideration in the case of Martin’s Alaska - where there was no heckling - but, for me, much empathy and positive regard.

I was drawn to Alaska as someone with an interest in mental health; I work for the NHS, delivering Arts in Health Services for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, and also direct WORD!, a poetry organisation uniquely co-produced by the NHS and in residence at University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre. I’ve also engaged with the subject as a writer and performer and have had my own experiences, which should be as easy a thing to mention as diabetes or a heart condition, but is not. Due to unavoidable circumstances, I walked into the show 10 minutes late. My first experience was to enter a dimly lit, basement room, faced with a circle of seated people, and to be seated - by myself, the artist and general census into the only empty chair.

Martin was dressed in white with intricately plaited locks looped around her head - a detail with a personal backstory later gone into. She was herself seated in one of the chairs but in the process of moving round the circle to show to each person present a series of playing cards. Each small, Tarot like card, illustrated by artist, Tommy Ollerenshaw depicted a key emotional aspect Martin had grown up with - or perhaps more symbolically, been dealt.

In a performance, inspired by her eponymously titled collection of poems, she talked in a range of ways; sometimes with raw, honest and generous emotion, about her experience of severe depression from childhood, and also of high academic and physical achievement as a young woman. A straight A student, she threw javelin, was an intern for NASA and moved from Washington DC and Maryland where she was raised, to study at Cambridge University. She reflected on a life heavily impacted by the experience of mental illness, and shared things that were sometimes difficult to hear. But identity, like performance, is fluid. She recounted one occasion, after her mental health had broken down in the UK, when she’d been temporarily placed in a mental health institution but given day release to meet the Queen in honour of her achievements, then further leave to attend a tea party at Buckingham Palace. None of us are just one thing.

Speaking, seated with the audience, in the round, she played Daft Punk and Billie Holiday on a small transistor stereo and danced with abandon in the middle of the space. She sang. Occasionally, she cried. At one point, she asked me if I was OK. I was - and so was she, then, there and without wishing to make any assumptions. Two other people I talked to after the performance I attended were less clear about the show. Others, including me clearly loved it - but this is the function of art, and this was that; experience transformed. It was a deeply personal sharing - arguably, all shows are; the difference here and to return to my opening, is that in this case the line between artist and audience had been made deliberately permeable, but consciously and importantly.

Martin shared her story, authentically, personally, non-hierarchically - sitting with us, ‘one of us’. Could the audience then be less clear about the artistic validity of their response? Be that discomfort, or more positive regard, or a whole range of other emotions. Were we witnesses or co-creators; audience or participants, and was this a workshop, a gathering, a meeting, a talk or a show? We and it were perhaps all of these things to some extent, in a piece that resisted categorisation.

I loved Alaska. I loved the lyricism, the generosity and the honesty; the message of resilience and survival and recovery - when recovery is understood in terms of living well in spite of a difficult experience, or just with a different way of being. Reflecting on my NHS practice - I thought of CHIME, a conceptional framework for recovery, its anagram describing principles of: Connection, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment. In Alaska, there were all these things, and it was its own thing too; an experience, encounter, offer. Challenging, emotionally resonant and ultimately inspiring, Alaska was a coming together, that for me did.

Karin Petersson 58 days ago

Saw it Today, it will staty in my heart for a long long time. A warm and absolutely heart breaking show. Please see!


Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

Musical Theatre Review (3/5 stars) 56 days ago

The sun’s low in the sky as we take our places in the circle. Chery Martin greets us with warmth – quietly pottering around her dominion, setting up the space for us. Through all the mania of the festival, this is her small island of calm.

Her story, however, is anything but. In the quiet of this Summerhall basement, we learn of a lifelong struggle with mental illness, a decade spent in and out of psychiatric institutions, loves, loss, music, and Alaska – her spiritual home on the Moon.

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UK Theatre Web (5/5 stars) 58 days ago

In a bare room in the basement, with a circle of mostly plastic chairs and a small boombox, Cheryl Martin shares with us past, well some of it. With humour, music, some dance and a few tears we are privileged to hear some of the complexity of trying to live with the severe depression and the Imps as she calls her impulses.

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The List (3/5 stars) 60 days ago

An unconventionally staged autobiographical piece about living with depression...

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The F Word 64 days ago

The simplicity of the show leaves nowhere to hide, either for the audience or for Martin. However, she’s an incredibly charismatic performer who holds my attention throughout.

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The Wee Review (4/5 stars) 64 days ago

Cheryl Martin describes herself as a singer, poet, director, writer and performer, from which emerges Alaska, her journey of battling the ‘imps’ of depression, rage and perfectionism, in an inspiringly honest account. Performed in a former women’s locker room, a circle of chairs creates a conversation. Lit only in one...

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FringeReview 65 days ago

A plain white room in the basement of Summerhall has only a window (on a fairly driech Edinburgh day at that) and a tall floorlight. The audience are sat in a circle and it has the feeling of an impending AA meeting or self-help therapy group. “It’s a bit dismal”...

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.