Annie Moss explains how her therapy experience has informed her debut play, Remember
05 September, 2019 — By Julie Tomlin
Barbara Cunningham and Gillian Broderick in Remember, the first play by Annie Moss
A psychotherapist who turned her hand to playwriting in order to explore the nature of grief, will see the curtain raised on her new show at the Cockpit Theatre on September 11.
Annie Moss, who trained at the Camden Psychotherapy Unit in Kentish Town, which offers affordable therapy for Camden residents, wrote her first play Remember in an attempt to convey some of the complexities of grief and the role that therapy can play in working through the many issues bereavement can bring to the surface.
Always a film and theatre buff, Annie was drawn to writing for theatre as a means of analysing those aspects of our lives that affect our response following the trauma of loss. The People Productions play tells the story of Karen, who, after her son Thomas is killed in a cycling accident, undergoes six years of psychotherapy. During the same period, Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth, joins a religious support group. For both women it becomes clear how trauma, guilt and regret colour their perceptions of the past.
“What I am trying to put across is what a very complicated matter grief can be,” says Annie. “Of course, it starts off as a tragedy and shock, but then it can drag on and elongate because it becomes about the complexity of the person suffering the grief, it’s not straightforward at all. If someone has lost the person who is closest to them, with whom they formed their identity, the identity can begin to crumble over time, that’s what my play is trying to address.”
In opening up the world of long-term psychotherapy, Annie, who now has a private practice in south-east London, has worked to create a play which was true to its form, so that students would recognise the technique on stage, while at the same time engaging audiences.
“It was a struggle with the dialogue, as obviously I couldn’t make it exactly how it was in a session It needed to be interesting and upbeat enough for the audience to engage with it, but it also has to be true to its modality, connecting the past to the present, that’s what I spent the most time on,” she says. “Actually, in a sense it is psycho-educational, but I very much hope to have got he balance of that with a very engaging and interesting dialogue which also shows us the characters.”
Directed by Lawrence O’Connor, Remember explores the ways people protect themselves, the patterns they repeat, sometimes across generations, as well as the nature of memory and the tendency both to idealise the past and those they’ve lost. It also examines the potential of looking at these questions by delving into our past.
“Often feelings that come up in grief are connected to things in the past, and that’s where psychotherapy is needed, because it’s not always obvious to the person what’s going on and it’s not obvious to everybody else,” says Annie. “While there are generalised words like depression that are used, to get to the nitty-gritty, although it can be very difficult, can be very important.”
In writing about grief, Annie also highlights how western cultures generally deal poorly with death, and while the tradition of funerals can be helpful to the bereaved, there’s often a great deal of taboo that affects our approach after that.
“People don’t know how to talk to people in grief, and what is appalling is that people can forget about it after a few months, because if they haven’t experienced it themselves, they don’t know that it can be an ongoing matter,” says Annie.
The lead characters are all over 55 and the lead, Karen, is in her 70s – in line with the fact that “if things go well, in an ordinary fashion” most people begin to experience grief when they are in their 50s and over. The age of the cast lends depth to the characters, she says: “They are sourcing all their life experience, maturity and their own psychology and insight, all these things are required for the parts, and it’s very moving what they are putting into the roles.
“As it’s my first play, I’m absolutely delighted to have got it this far and for it to be on at such a high calibre theatre with such a superb cast.”
• Remember is at the Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, NW8 8EH from September 11-14. 7.30pm. Tickets £15, £12 concessions. 020 7258 2925, www.thecockpit.org.uk