Leyland writer's mission to take mental health play to award-winning London theatre

Hannah Heaton is raising money to run her mental health play,The Less You Know, at an award-winning theatre in London. Credit: Captured Actor.
Hannah Heaton is raising money to run her mental health play,The Less You Know, at an award-winning theatre in London. Credit: Captured Actor.

Some people are haunted by painful intrusive thoughts.

It's a curse that Leyland actor and writer Hannah Heaton hopes to highlight in her debut play, The Less You Know. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted and sudden thoughts, doubts, impulses or mental images that can cause severe distress and impairment in a person's ability to function.

The Less You Know stars Christina Rose, who plays a woman dealing with the trauma of abortion.

The Less You Know stars Christina Rose, who plays a woman dealing with the trauma of abortion.

Now the 20-year-old director is raising £3,500 to run the show, which explores trauma, abuse and abortion, at the award-winning Bread and Roses Theatre in London from May 5-9.

The former Runshaw College student said: "We aim to get people talking about the ugly side of mental health. Anxiety and depression are becoming more accepted, which is such a good thing, but there are other sides that people are scared to talk about."

Hannah, who attended Wellfield High School, says her friends' struggles inspired her to research intrusive thoughts.

Almost everyone experiences them, and they are usually about topics that are important to the individual, research has shown. But those who are plagued by them can fear the thoughts will come true or indicate something terrible about them.

This dark comedy presented by North to South Theatre shines a light on intrusive thoughts.

This dark comedy presented by North to South Theatre shines a light on intrusive thoughts.

They can often focus on sexual, violent or socially unacceptable images while sufferers can also experience repetitive doubts about safety, relationships, decisions, religion, death, sexual orientation, or questions that cannot be answered with certainty.

They are often associated with conditions like eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"It must be frightening to have horrible thoughts like that. They won't leave you and make you think they're real. That's the brain tricking you," she said.

The Less You Know will be presented by North to South Theatre, a new company that aims to bring taboo topics to diverse audiences. It will be performed by Christina Rose and Toby Redpath.

The 90-minute play stars Toby Redpath.

The 90-minute play stars Toby Redpath.

Hannah added: "The play is a dark comedy to make the topic less daunting to talk about. We want the audience to walk away taking mental health as seriously as physical illnesses.

"It would mean the world to us to get the play out there and it's important to us as a company to help people."

Hannah cut her teeth in theatre by performing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with St Ambrose Players in Leyland.

She then began writing scripts, before creating and directing the experimental, The Less You Know, which she hopes to one day publish and perform in the North.

"It's been hard because of the cuts to the arts. They've become bigger and bigger, and new young writers are being put off," she said.

"It's awful. Practicing the arts is good for your mental health, whether you write, draw or join a choir."

That is why Hannah has set up a Kickstarter page to cover costs like set, lighting and travel.

To make a donation, please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hannahheaton/help-us-take-our-debut-show-to-london?ref=project_build#

And to follow the team on social media, search for @theatrenorth on Twitter, and @North to South Theatre on Facebook and Instagram.