see also my website about the Communicube and Communiwell:
NOTE: ON THIS WEBSITE TO PROTECT E-MAIL ADDRESSES FROM SPAM I HAVE SUBSTITUTED THE “@” SIGN FOR (AT).
WELCOME TO JOHN CASSON’S FIRST WEBSITE.
To find your way around please click on the titles on the side panel which provide information about:
Dr. JOHN CASSON
PhD., B.A.(Hons), M.A., P.G.C.E.,
Dip. Psychd., Dip. Dth.
Dramatherapist, Psychodrama Psychotherapist
I have now retired from practice. For 30 years I was a dramatherapist and a psychodrama psychotherapist for 21 years. In 2012 I received A Life Time Achievement Award from the British Psychodrama Association.
On this website you can read about:
READ PAPERS I HAVE WRITTEN
DRAMATHERAPY AND PSYCHODRAMA: DEFINITIONS AND HISTORY
MY RESEARCH WITH PEOPLE WHO HEAR VOICES
MY PLAY: VOICES AND VISIONS
MY SHAKESPEARE-NEVILLE RESEARCH,BOOKS AND PAPERS
HOW TO CONTACT ME
My practice as a psychotherapist:
I have now retired from practice and am only available to offer specialist workshops by arrangement or consultations by e-mail/phone from those in training or interested in dramatherapy and psychodrama as a career.
Apart from ten years of practice as a dramatherapist (1984-94) in an NHS adult mental health service in Hyde, Cheshire, the therapy groups I have facilitated have included the first male survivors of sexual abuse groups in Huddersfield (for the N.H.S.) and groups for people who hear voices in Oldham and Ashton-Under-Lyne and therapy groups for trainees.
How to contact me:
If you need to speak to me please ring
01204 706531 between 8.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m.
or e-mail me on drjohncasson(at)gmail.com
NOTE: ON THIS WEBSITE TO PROTECT E-MAIL ADDRESSES FROM SPAM I HAVE SUBSTITUTED THE “@” SIGN FOR (at).
Training opportunities in Dramatherapy and Psychodrama:
I was a founding member of the Northern School of Psychodrama (NSP). The NSP offers certificates and a diploma training programmes leading to registration with U.K.C.P. as a psychodrama psychotherapist. I may be available to offer training workshops for other organisations, especially training in using the communicube: see: www.communicube.co.uk
I have been a visiting lecturer at various colleges and Universities.
I am a writer and have written plays and poems (see the Creativity page on this website)
Voices and Visions
a Five Act Play by John Casson
directed by Helen Parry
performed by The Arden School of Theatre,
City College, Manchester
Thursday 6th, Friday 7th, Saturday 8th July 2006
Four people who hear voices (Ray, Sam, Jo and Terry) struggle to survive with the help of a British NHS psychiatric service. We see them at home, in hospital and in therapy. The play opens in the street where Sam?s brother, Connor, mugs Jo. Jude, a dramatherapist, gets a job in the psychiatric service. She meets all four patients and offers them a therapy group. (Four scenes show us the life of that therapy group.) Connor burgles Terry’s house resulting in Terry going back into hospital. Ray does a cathartic psychodrama in the therapy group that releases him from the grip of a repetitive nightmare. He and Sam develop a friendship but Connor interrupts their first outing to a pub and the violence leads to Ray becoming disturbed. The final scene leaves the audience unsure whether he will be sectioned back into hospital or escape into the new relationship with Sam. Jo becomes a singer in a nightclub.
The play incorporates flashbacks, nightmares, visions, and hallucinations. It uses film, puppets and masks. It is an ensemble piece centring on the four patients, their therapists, professional and family carers. It moves between social reality, fantasy and madness. There are two versions: one for about 25 actors, another for just six (which is so arranged that the six actors can play all the parts).
The play is based on 20 years of clinical experience and 6 years of PhD research into what people who hear voices find helpful or unhelpful in dramatherapy and psychodrama.
So far as I am aware it is the only play that shows scenes of individual and group therapy using Art Therapy, Dramatherapy and Psychodrama.
Audience reactions to the play: an edited collection of letters and e-mails:
John Harris, gestalt psychotherapist:
Just to say how much I enjoyed the play, a great success, the actors did well, and I thought your way of dramatising ‘voices’ was very original and imaginative. A triumph! Well done.
Clark Baim, psychodrama psychotherapist, actor, theatre director:
Congratulations on a great achievement. Voices and Visions was a moving, well-paced and very engaging production of your great play. The cast did you proud. I hope that you will be able to find other producers and venues. I am so pleased that I was able to be there. I loved so much about the play, and I think all of the therapy scenes are really remarkable achievements.
Mike Kaye, psychotherapist and social worker:
Had a great evening last night – I was engaged every second of the play. All very real and familiar stuff for me as you can imagine. And of course, judging by overheard conversations in the interval it was stirring people up to think and examine their own assumptions and attitudes.
Philip Watts, teacher:
I went to Voices and Visions on Friday and had a moving and stimulating evening. I feel I must say that it made a big impression on me. Two words that spring to mind are humanity and integrity – it was totally successful in taking the audience into the reality of its subjects – most movingly so. The production itself was highly accomplished – there is something special about the commitment and group dynamic of students that was particularly apt.
Stuart Richman, actor and Sheila Richman psychodrama psychotherapist:
We thought the play worked amazingly well, and that you were well served by the production and the actors. Sheila in particular was moved by the realisation on the stage of the devils of schizophrenia. Bravo, congratulations, well done.
Hazel McKay, psychology lecturer and dramatherapist:
I found the play very moving and, indeed, cathartic. The players did incredibly well, especially for a first night. My colleague found it very powerful and the psychology students got a lot out of it.
From Heather Kempster, dramatherapist:
Voices and Visions: What a tour de force! Fantastic, Congratulation! Three friends, two psychiatric social work lecturers and one psychologist, experienced with people who hear voices, and I went to the Saturday matinee. We were all moved by the intensity and specific way you had captured the lives of sufferers and their families/associates. So many points, especially recovery versus management, made so well but not aggressively. Very thought provoking for some people. My psychologist colleague (now retired) had a seminal experience, I think, as she has always promoted management and drugs and never been really prepared to accept the value of expressive therapies.
I loved the therapy group. Staging was marvellous and some of the actors frighteningly good. The on-going gibbering/threats/intimidation from the chorus even in the quiet scenes was particularly powerful.
Some V&V sufferers in the audience were delighted and could barely contain their appreciation and relief when recognising familiar experiences.
We think you should offer this to BBC2 or Channel 4.
Nenagh Watson, theatre artist and puppeteer:
My thoughts: These are written with huge admiration for you and this wonderful piece of writing! First thing I was tremendously moved by some of the writing. I loved the highly poetic dream writing best, but the poetry & songs were wonderful. The actual play was convincingly structured & I found the therapy sessions well written & presented. It worked. The puppets were very strong. The use of human Punch & Judy was extremely effective. The super eight film was wonderful & an interesting insight into the deeper nature of the character. I thought the soundscape was very effective & overall scenography good.
My guest works as a support worker within mental health so she was very interested in your work. She was very complementary about your character portrayals and felt the therapy sessions were excellently conveyed. She is recommending it to her colleagues!
Voices and Visions
Review by Dr. Bonnie Meekums, senior dance movement therapist
It’s not often I see an issue-based play, acted by students, that grabs my attention all the way through and makes me want to come back after the interval… This new play by John Casson, a psychodrama psychotherapist and dramatherapist, addresses the little understood phenomenon of hearing voices. The central character, Ray, is a black British man, whose voices include an ancestor and a racist. The latter is discomfortingly portrayed through a member of the chorus leaping out of the shadows to hurl racist abuse at Ray, forcing him to make a Nazi salute in an effort to appease. Directed by Helen Parry, this is not a comfortable play to watch, and there is no romanticising of madness.
The chorus, choreographed by Ruth Jones, played an important role; they distracted just enough with their cackling and heckling and often sexualized posturing to portray the intrusion of voices on thought processes, without interrupting my ability to follow the main action. During scene changes, they pounced from the shadows, pirouetting and leaping as they grabbed a chair or prop, so that I could believe in their presence as thought stealers and thought implanters.
One actor stood out for me, due to his ability to demonstrate the effects of medication on Terry. Played by Owen Barrett, while taking his anti-psychotic medication his gait was stiff, his torso unyielding, his expressivity muted.
When he stopped taking medication, his body transformed; he became animated and fluid in his movement. I had a deep sense of him being back, which threw into relief for me the idea that he had somehow been lost.
If I have any criticism to make of the play, it is that it is strident in its anti-medical message, without fully exploring the potentially life-saving functions of medication. Some of the doctors and nurses were fairly two-dimensional, while others were shown as “wounded healers”, including one mental health worker whose views more closely resembled the playwright’s own beliefs in empowerment. When I put this to the John Casson, he said he wanted to show how sometimes mental health workers replicate the roles of significant others in the “patient’s” life, both helpful and unhelpful, and often powerful. If you want to question where power lies in society, you sometimes have to go out on a limb. I happened to be sitting with a doctor friend, who to my surprise agreed with the anti-medical message of the play. Let’s hope the world premiere is just the beginning of an interesting debate on this important issue.
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Roger Grainger, dramatherapist, actor and author:
When I first reviewed ‘Voices and Visions’, after reading it through, I wrote:
“Casson’s aim is to allow his people to invite us into their own reality, and the play’s message concerns that reality. To read ‘Visions and Voices’ is to find oneself deeply involved in the lives of its characters. The multi-dimensional approach -characters as themselves, as the voices they hear, or in role as someone else – depending upon a brilliant juxtaposition of realism and metaphor, dream and reality, strikes home, catching official sanity off guard.
The original script of ‘Voices and Visions’ confined the action to six actors, focusing on the psychodramatic intensity of role-reversal. The play’s production at the Arden involved many more bodies than this, in the shape of a supporting cast of black-clad presences whose separate reality from the play’s central characters emphasized the apparent independence of the ‘Voices’ and their anti-personal effect on the people involved. A psychodramatic technique thus gave way to a traditionally theatrical one: a chorus of alter egos, in fact, highlighting conflict, satirising the feelings and intentions of the protagonists and underlining the chasm separating the psychiatric professionals (who never saw them, of course) from the women and men with whom they were in such intimate contact; commenting on everything going on in their lives in the attempt to control them and limit their freedom to be themselves and act independently. These dark figures lurked, played and rushed around the edges of the action, making occasional forays centre stage, their obvious fascination with the story and its characters adding to the central focus instead of distracting from it, seizing our attention dialectically, causing it to rebound with even greater force onto the character concerned, thereby catching us unawares in an unguarded moment… Just like the Voices themselves, in fact.
Sam talks to her psychiatrist Dr. Jay: he is unaware that she is haunted by her abusive brother’s presence/voice. Actors: Stephanie Adshead, Samuel Courtney, Luke Grimshaw
I realise now, of course, that this was the main justification for their embodied presence within the action: to bring home the reality and importance of the Voices in an unforgettable way. Just as the people in the play could hear them, so we, the audience, could see them. The psychiatric staff, of course, could do neither of these things, a fact which made it all the easier to deny them any real personal significance or valid meaning -except of course as the proof of mental illness, concentrating as it does upon the things “healthy” people are unaware of, and consequently untroubled by. The advantage of these black-clad presences was that they could be argued with and out-faced: “That’s the to do it!” There is no need for the Voices to inflict all the damage. They too can be beaten round the head; but not very easily if the significance of what they have to say has been: officially discounted from the very beginning.
Before Voices can be contradicted, and their effect counteracted, they, must first of all be heard, and their personal – or rather anti-personal – reality acknowledged. Casson shows us how, in dramatherapy, the problem – the Voices in fact – can be addressed. The tormenting message requires an answer; the fact that it seems to come from ‘somewhere else’ does not automatically render it meaningless; it is still open to argument and can therefore be withstood. The scope of dramatherapy, what Kelly calls its ‘range of convenience’, is much wider than that of psychiatric theory and practice, and its ability to work on several levels of personal reality at once, makes it the treatment of choice wherever there is a need to explore relationships with ourselves and other people – particularly those which operate on the borders between inner and out experience. But what happened at the Arden was a play, a genuine, piece of theatre; and its translation from dramatic text to actual theatre was, for me and for the audience, a revelation.
Voices and Visions is a Five Act Play based on PhD research with people who hear voices by John Casson: it is available as a PDF to download.
Please contact me to discuss any production or use of the play:
drjohncasson(at)gmail.com substitute @ for (at).
CAST LIST OF THE ORIGINAL PRODUCTION
Ray Sunday: Ali Babakordi (6th & 7th July)
Ray Sunday: Marvin Brown (8th July)
Sam Craig: Stephanie Adshead
Jo Kingsley: Sally Leigh
Terry Merchant: Owen Barrett
Jude Danzig: Antonia Armstrong
Dr. Lionel Jay: Luke Grimshaw
Dr. Sandy Beech: Justine Bailey
Tony Singer: Chris Smithson
Pat Riley: Anni Tosh
Connor: Samuel Courtney
Social Worker: Rosie Tickell
Sally: Aimee Johnson
Rose Cross: Zarah Doyle
Punch/Voice 4: Rory Gallagher
Ghost/Voice 12 Wendy Wright
Devil/Voice 10 Robert Haythorne
Judy/Voice 8: Jodie Nesbitt
Keith/Voice 2: Richard rimmer
Hangman/Voice 11: Alex Kennett
Policeman: Seamus O’Neill
Voice 1: Tara Betham
Voice 3: Jennifer Roberts
Voice 5: Abbey Sutton
Voice 6: Clare Chalmers
Voice 7: Aimee Allen
Voice 13: Chloe Mander
Voice 14: Lisa Davies
Joruba Voice: Babatunde Sodipo
Farsi Voice: Abdul Ahmid Babakordi
Set Designer: Emily Campbell
Lighting Designer: Gareth Starkey
Sound Designer: Louis Glibert
Costume Designer: Jacquie Davies