Feature: Inside of Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a strange psychological scenario in which a victim can express sympathy, or even love, towards their abuser. It’s much more common than many think; it occurs in many situations: from domestic violence to hostage situations, and in Inside, a horrific drama from Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company that explores not only the physical restraints of kidnap, but also the mental.

Interestingly, Inside is both written and performed by Rosie MacPherson, giving her a chance to really focus on the character of the victim. MacPherson has mainly used three kidnap cases to inspire the story of Inside, though with the tone of the piece came a desire to keep the characters as the focal point. MacPherson writes:

I’m not interested in sensationalising for the sake of a good show, I want people to be able to connect with the character and go on the journey with her.

“Finding the way she talks and interacts and deals with things is definitely key in creating an honest character.”

Sadly, the voice of a character in a desperate position such as kidnap is far from a pleasant one, so I was curious to find out how MacPherson performs horrific pieces.

There are many performers who take a methodist approach to their work, but MacPherson believes that a piece “doesn’t need to consume you to do it justice”, and that it is important to create a separation between day-to-day life and character’s life. There are also times, though, where day-to-day life can help you to portray a character, even when it is not explicit. Whilst MacPherson has thankfully never suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, she has felt similar feelings to the character that she pushes out on stage and uses to build up and connect with a character.

Throughout the show, MacPherson tells me that she wants to “push the audience to their limit of understanding”, asking them to consider why seemingly obvious choices for the character to run and escape aren’t as simple as they seem on the surface. Having a passion for breaking down misconceptions about mental health, MacPherson cites depression as an example of a mental illness that is gradually becoming accepted as such, something that she wants to repeat for the audience in her own way for Stockholm Syndrome. It’s not just the audience that the piece has touched, though. Aside from the effects of performing such a horrific story, MacPherson says that she has been not only upset by real examples of Stockholm Syndrome, but also inspired by the incredible strength and courage of suffers to hold onto hope.

“Each case was such an example of not only the very worst of human nature but the best too and that really was the driving force behind the script that I ended up writing.”

Inside is currently on tour around the country, bringing with it a few challenges. Asking MacPherson about touring, she tells me that, as an actress, once in the mindset of the character different venues make no difference to the performance, though the audience can. Some audiences are more susceptible to different moments in the play, and MacPherson enjoys this constant evolution of her performance. “Change is good!”, she enthusiastically comments.

As part of the interview I also got chance to ask questions to John Tomlinson, Producer of Inside about the touring aspect of the production. Expecting one of the greatest challenges to be communicating with a venue about the configuration of a production, I was surprised to learn that it was physically moving items around. Tomlinson says that planning down to the finest detail is key, to ensure an efficient transfer of the set, the team and vehicles, as well as managing the budget, “the team are all going to want coffee when they’re on the move, the van needs to be parked at each venue so there are parking costs, those are the things that add up without realising”. Tomlinson also says that it is important to fully get to know the venue, makingsure that you stage the performance correctly for the venue. Despite these challenges, though, Tomlinson agrees with MacPherson that touring is a very rewarding experience: “it’s great for our company profile to be presenting work around the country and we’re really pleased with the success of it so far!”.