Rosalind Blessed: ‘In an increasingly isolated society, it’s so easy to imagine that you are alone’
PUBLISHED: 12:17 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:18 07 January 2020
Rosalind Blessed has entered 2020 at great pace. As many of us reluctantly judder back in to our daily routines, she’s about to bring not one but two of her plays to the Old Red Lion Theatre, where they’ll run concurrently throughout January.
The first of these plays - The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People - is a study of domestic abuse.
"It's really looking at the journey of a relationship as it disintegrates," explains Blessed, the daughter of two actors in Hildegard Neil and Brian.
"Moving back and forth in time, it's an examination of what can lead to a relationship that becomes abusive. Running alongside that, it's looking at the wonderful influence and empathy you can get from a dog. So you have the simple, pure, supportive love of a dog offset against the possessive, conditional and toxic love of a human."
Blessed's second play is called Lullabies for the Lost, and that too features challenging themes including depression, social anxiety, eating disorders and the emotional turmoil of a miscarriage. Both plays were written from personal experience, and Blessed is keen to stress that despite the dark subject matter, there's also a lot of light and hope in each production.
These mental health problems, she says, "are a lot more wide-ranging than I think the statistics would lead us to believe. It's going to resonate with people who are suffering, but the plays are beautiful to look at, there's a lot of humour in them and a lot of fun. It's not a drudge or a lecture; it's quite an invigorating experience."
Blessed is performing in both plays and she'll have the support of mum Hildegard, who appears in Lullabies for the Lost, and dad Brian as executive producer.
"It's been absolutely fantastic to have their support," she says. "My mother has always been my acting inspiration. I wanted to bring in a sense of wisdom and a light to look towards. I thought 'who better than my mother, who has been doing that for me my entire life?'"
"Dad knows mental health issues well as it runs in the Blessed line. His mother suffered terribly when he was a child, [and] he himself has written about a breakdown he had as a young man. It's difficult to get men talking about mental health [with the] pressure of having to hold yourself together. It impresses me that dad, at 83, is happy to talk about it.
"When he first came along, it just chimed with him. He thought it was important, and both of us are passionate to help people, [to say] you're not broken, you're not wrong and there is a community for you."
Blessed has written these two plays to entertain, of course, but also to send a message of support to anyone suffering in silence; convinced that there is little hope of recovery from the internal war that rages inside their mind.
She adds: "In an increasingly isolated society awash with false images and glamourised 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."
While Blessed accepts that "it's going to be a lifelong battle" dealing with mental health challenges, she says she is "70 to 80 per cent better than I have been in my past" at the moment. That's due in no small part to the unconditional love of her pets.
"I always had dogs around me growing up. When I was in a dark place, they're not just there to be funny and cute, a fundamental reason to wake up and get out of bed is that they need you. What you get in return is a kind of emotional support, a symbol of hope."
So has it been difficult planning to put on - and perform in - two plays at the same time?
"I'm not going to lie… it has been a little challenging! It's quite a juggling act, but I feel terrible complaining about it because what a wonderful opportunity [it is]. I think the plays complement each other. To run them together is the greatest way to reach as many people as we possibly can."
Rosalind Blessed's two plays are on at the Old Red Lion Theatre until February 1. More details and tickets here.