Of all the hardships we face in life, few are more painful than the loss of a loved one.
This is something Rachel Mae Brady understands acutely. In 2015, while rehearsing for a pantomime, she unexpectedly lost her uncle Neil who was both her hero and role model.
Unable to attend his funeral as it fell on the same day the pantomime opened, Rachel fell into a period of grief and shock. She struggled to leave the house because of severe panic attacks that gripped her whole body, and found herself unable to manage things as routine as meeting a friend for coffee or heading to the shops.
During this time, Rachel began to revisit the fantastical stories her uncle would tell her as a child. These tales stayed with her, and she began to bring them together in her own words to share with the world. From this emerged Wolf Tamer, an autobiographical production aiming to break down the stigma surrounding loss and mental illness through the exploration of Rachel’s encounters with these issues.
Wolf Tamer, both written and performed by Rachel, uses these stories as a vehicle for confronting and rationalising her own experiences. She speaks to the audience throughout the show, and the direct relationship she establishes reinforces its impact.
Writing Wolf Tamer helped Rachel through both her grief and her struggle with extreme anxiety, becoming a performance dealing not merely with loss but also the conquering of fear and the celebration of life.
The titular wolf is central to the production. According to Rachel, when she was a child her uncle had a large black dog, who he claimed was half wolf. He told her how he found it roaming wild in the forest and demonstrated how he tamed it, teaching her that she was also able to tame wolves.
In her own words, the wolf becomes a metaphor for the darker things we confront in life; ‘taming the wolf’ is about overcoming your fear.
Rachel feels the process of grieving, along with issues relating to mental health, both need to be addressed more in conversation.
Admitting you are anxious or depressed can feel like a weakness, which is absurd when mental illnesses are experienced by roughly one in four people.
Rachel believes the more mental health is addressed onstage, on television and in popular culture at large, the more we will realise how common it is and the easier it will be for people to find help.
She has said: “After every performance there are people who come up to me and tell me about loved ones they’ve lost or their own experiences with mental illness. I treasure the moments of sharing because I wrote the show in the hope it would make other people feel less alone. We also provide information about local organisations who can help, at the end of each show, so there is a next step available to anyone who needs it.”
Wolf Tamer is Dublin-born Rachel Mae Brady’s first solo production.
A film and TV actress in addition to being a theatre-maker, Rachel has previously appeared in The Tudors, Vikings, Camelot and the short film Mirrorman.
The show will appeared at Brighton Fringe on Monday, May 17 - 19, at Sweet Werks 1 on 15-17 Middle Street.
Additional information can be found at www.wolftamershow.com.