Interview With… Koko Brown

The writer chatted to Emma Clarendon about the world premiere of Grey, playing at the Ovalhouse Theatre from the 27th June.

Hi Koko, could you tell me a bit more about what GREY is about? GREY is a colourful, candid show about my mental health journey. It follows me
through denial, seeking help in multiple ways and then looking at what happens next – what happens after you get help.

How did the idea for the play come about? It’s about my life so it comes from a place of truth and wanting to share my story.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?I want them to get a better understanding of what it’s like living with depression –
something that’s far away from the stereotypical representation of it. If one person sees my story and it makes them think about their own mental health (or the mental health of someone close to them) then it would have been worth it.

How have you found the experience so far of seeing your play heading to the stage? This is my second play but it’s much bigger than the last one so it’s be nerve- wracking but wonderful to watch that process.

Why do you think there is still such a stigma when it comes to talking about mental health? I think, specifically surrounding Black women, there’s a stigma because we are seen to be strong, to be independent or to be the matriarch and so it’s hard to battle that. Add in the fact that something like depression is an illness that you can’t see, it makes it that much harder to understand. It’s understandable that there would be a stigma surrounding mental health because it’s so misunderstood. I think people are working within their communities to tackle this and it’s just time for the world to catch up.

Do you think that people should do more to help each other when it comes to opening up conversations about mental health? Absolutely! But it’s hard. It’s not easy to say to someone ‘hey, I’m not well but I can’t
show you where I’m hurting’. I think we’re going at our own pace and are doing the best we can. We can always do better but as long as we keep having these conversations then we’re doing good in the world.

How are you feeling about bringing the play to the Ovalhouse? Ovalhouse is like my home. The whole building is so supportive of me as an artist and a person, that it’s just right for GREY to be here. I couldn’t imagine premiering this show anywhere else.

What can audiences expect from GREY? They can expect a show about living, not suffering, with depression. It’s loud. It has music, spoken word and British Sign Language plus beautiful lighting and set from
Martha Godfrey and Emily Harewood respectively. It’s not sad and solemn, it’s honest and open. It’s a good time about having a bad time.

By Emma Clarendon

GREY will play at the Ovalhouse from the 27th June until the 13th July.

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