Laughing at mental illness

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 28/09/2012
Roberto Nascimento
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ
CHANGING MINDS: Roberto Nascimento hopes to break down mental health stereotypes with his play Negatively Orientated Therapy.

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Roberto Nascimento's brief is clear - shift public mindsets and above all entertain.

The Grey Lynn resident is the director of Negative Orientated Therapy (N.O.T), a 10-minute play which is going before audiences at the Big reThiNK from October 3 to 6.

Almost 100 New Zealand comedians, actors and directors have come together for the Big reTHiNK.

It is a theatre show incorporating short plays, artwork and music that aims to break down some common misconceptions about mental illness.

It will mark the beginning of the World Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental unwellness is something that has been part of Mr Nascimento's family life.

He is one of the 20 artists involved in the project who have supported a family member or friend through a mental illness, while the other 80 are sufferers themselves.

"It's something I find interesting and is dear to me," Mr Nascimento says.

"When you know someone going through this you go through a process of getting angry and upset and after a while you realise they're people and you've just got to work with what you've got."

Like many of the plays that make up the Big reTHiNK, N.O.T is a a comedy.

While mental illness is no laughing matter, comedy could be the key to changing people's ideas about the sensitive issue, Mr Nascimento says.

"A lot of people who have an understanding of these things write comedies. It's a gentle way of introducing people to something that can be treated in a very heavy handed way.

"A lot of people do walk in and think ‘gee, you can have a sense of humour'. If you can laugh at yourself though it can make you stronger," he says.

N.O.T has only two actors - Aidee Walker, who has previously been in Nothing Trivial and Outrageous Fortune, and Andrew Munro.

It was written by an American psychotherapist and tells the story of a man who goes to visit his doctor because he's too happy.

"The doctor gives him all kinds of advice like ‘start judging people' and ‘stop eating well'," Mr Nascimento says.

"I think it's cool that the play does that because they are things we all do. It's a really cute piece," he says.

"Some people may not like it, but hopefully they will experience something that maybe will stir something in them and when they leave they might do some research," he says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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