Entertainment

ArtBeat: The power of art and photography to boost mental health, and what happened when Shakespeare met Christopher Marlowe...

Jane Hardy's cultural canvas this week includes reimagining Shakespeare and the power of art – including photography – to boost mental health

Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography
Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography
Victoria Gleason features in Marlowe's Reckoning
Victoria Gleason features in Marlowe's Reckoning Victoria Gleason features in Marlowe's Reckoning

WHEN the groundlings enjoyed Shakespeare's plays while throwing a few bread rolls, the words reached their ears. They certainly couldn't check a quote in a book afterwards as most people couldn't read. Or write.

But somebody could and the Bard's First Folio, ie the first edition of the plays that we unconsciously quote to this day (once in a blue moon, etc) alongside the Bible, hit the streets 400 years ago (Folio400.com).

Declaring an interest, I and the other half have written a play about an imagined brief encounter between William Shakespeare and one of his greatest rivals, Kit (Christopher) Marlowe. The guy who wrote Dr Faustus – talking of quotes, he penned the line on Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships", possibly the nicest compliment any woman ever received – and was famously killed in Shoreditch, London, at an early age.

Anyhow, our piece, Marlowe's Reckoning, imagines their meeting, rivalry and has a big surprise ending. We hope to air this in Waterstone's and elsewhere on April 22, the day after the Bard's birthday.

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MENTAL illness is one of the biggest curses of our era and unfortunately Northern Ireland has a high suicide rate. Therapies are legion but one of the interesting lines of attack is art therapy.

Noted painter Paul Doran, who exhibits in London and Dublin and is currently in a residency at Ross's Auctioneers, is turning his hand to help people through.

Working with the brilliant Wave Trauma Centre, he and artist Niaill Conlon have devised a creative solution, aiming to raise funds for mental health and suicide awareness groups via a special exhibition.

It's called Minding the Minds Together. Doran says: "I went through a tough time during the past five years partly because I was working alone, busy with exhibitions, when I like being with people. Then my mother had a heart attack – a shock, although she's fine now." The selling show runs at Ross's from April 21 to May 5.

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ALTHOUGH art couldn't help poor manic depressive sufferer van Gogh (whose whizzy works are in an immersive show at Carlisle Memorial Church in Belfast until the end of March), it can help the rest of us psychologically.

Also in the curative creative mix is the superb photographic gallery Belfast Exposed. They've organised an important two-day conference at The MAC on April 3-4. Titled Healing with Photography, it features a stellar line-up of speakers, including Pulitzer prize winning photographer Cathal McNaughton, formerly of The Irish News. The idea is that you can step back from mental ill health via the camera.

Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography
Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography Belfast Exposed has organised a conference to explore the mental health benefits of photography

THOUGHTS on 2023 Bafta winners: youngish, gifted and white. Does it matter? Well, yes and no. But really thrilled about the deserved gong for An Irish Goodbye.