With her two self-penned plays, Rosalind Blessed returns to the stage with a family affair as she performs alongside her mother, Hildegard Neil, with her father, Brian Blessed, as executive producer. Shedding light on what we often keep hidden from the world, The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People and Lullabies for the Lost will be performed in rep throughout January at the Old Red Lion Theatre.
The Delights of Dogs and The Problems of People is a study of domestic abuse. It asks what causes a mind to unravel and why we don’t recognise the dangers lurking under our own roofs until it’s too late. This is not a story of a monster and a victim – life is not that simple. Performed by Duncan Wilkins (Romeo and Juliet, MokitaGrit) and Rosalind Blessed (Octavia, RSC Barbican) and directed by Caroline Devlin (King Lear, Guildford Shakespeare Company), the production holds dear the pure love of a dog and an owner even as human relationships become destructive.
Bound together by a discussion of common yet devastating issues, it will be performed alongside Lullabies for the Lost. Eight souls come together to share their secret stories as they desperately try to escape their self-created limbo. Looking at modern mental health and exploring depression, social anxiety, childlessness, hoarding and eating disorders, Lullabies for the Lost remains full of humour and ultimately hope, especially when there’s a helping paw to hold. Directed by Zoe Ford Burnett (Associate Director on The Lehman Trilogy, London and New York), it will star also Duncan Wilkins and Rosalind Blessed, alongside Kate Tydman (Top Girls, National Theatre), Helen Bang (Dancing with the Devil, Sadler’s Wells), Hildegard Neil (Antony and Cleopatra, Folio Films), Liam Mulvey (Kingsglaive, Square Enix), Nick Murphy (The Black Veil, UK tour), Chris Porter (Pressure, UK tour and Park Theatre) and Chris Pybus (Towards Zero, Mill at Sonning).
Both productions explore Blessed’s own personal experience. She writes openly, encouraging the audience to be honest with stories of their own mental health. These plays teach us to remember that there is hope and we are all in this together. Although some harrowing topics are addressed, they are full of laughter and the brightness of humanity.
Both are also united in their display of a dog’s love as a redemptive force. Dogs have been a profound help in stopping Blessed from going over the edge; they are shown to be vitally important in providing non-judgemental love when the stability of our mental health waivers.
Rosalind Blessed comments, In an increasingly isolated society awash with false images and glamorised stories, it’s so easy to imagine that you are alone. I wrote The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People as a person with a hell of a lot of problems; writing it left me feeling that perhaps it was not my fault after all. In Lullabies for the Lost, I opened up about my mental health and by treating the subject matter with honesty and an irreverent humour, it opened a conversation with the audience. You are not wrong. You are not broken. And you are not alone.
I think that The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People should continue from here to be shown across the country (★★★★★ London Theatre 1 on The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People).
While these plays hold an unflinching eye on people’s ‘private battles’, they are always insightful and never devoid of hope. Human beings are ‘messy’ at the best of times. These plays show we are more fragile and have more in common with each other than we’d like to think. (★★★★★ Breaking the Fourth Wall on Lullabies for the Lost).