PROFILE: Holly Gallagher | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Davey Poremba

“The irony of making a show about stress whilst working in the arts has not been lost on me!” Holly Gallagher laughs, when discussing her new show, Tensile Strength (or How To Survive At Your Wit’s End), which is at Stockton’s ARC on Wednesday 7th November.

Holly takes centre stage to tell the story of three North East-based people – He, She, and They – who are trying their best to cope with life’s demands. “It’s a show about stress, and why we as a society are so unwell both mentally and physically because of it,” she explains. “The work I make always stems from autobiographical material and verbatim/real life interviews. There’s a lot of me in this show – both in the moments where I chat to the audience as myself and in each of the characters. There’s a lot of feeling in it about expectations with work, money, relationships, self-worth, and indecision wrapped up in each character that all stem from me.”

Holly admits creating the show was a cathartic exercise for her, and it’s a subject she feels people should be made more aware of. “I see a real trivialisation of stress daily on my social media. Tons of posts about how you always have to be on the go, or how people are drinking their own body weight in coffee to make it through the day as though that’s a good thing or something to be proud of. It’s either seen as some kind of badge of honour or not as something to be taken seriously when it should be.”

Given the ARC production takes place on National Stress Awareness Day, Holly’s emphatic about how good self-care and talking through the condition can help sufferers. “We don’t acknowledge enough how stress can build up and cause real damage in people’s lives and lead to anxiety, depression, full on nervous breakdowns. Even heart attacks and strokes. We need to take more time to care for one another and ourselves. And also be sympathetic to the fact that some people can’t cope with as much as others – and that isn’t something to be looked down upon. We also definitely shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it!”

Holly will be running a workshop on Thursday 1st November in which participants can create their own emergency stress-relief box.


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