ALRA South 3rd year students on our Three Year Acting BA (Hons) course, Annie Eves, Rosemary Berkon, Amber Hockridge, James Monckton, Gaby French, Kit Garner, Abbie Andrews and Zachary Hart, will begin a week long run of Tracing Grace at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on Saturday, 6th August.
The play has been written and directed by Annie, 21, and reveals the impact of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, on her 18-year-old sister, Grace, and their family.
“Performing at the Fringe is very exciting, but also very nerve racking,” said Annie, who will also appear in the play. “I hope it is received well and if it raises awareness or has an impact on even a handful of people then I will be extremely happy.”
Annie decided to focus on her sister and encephalitis when she was thinking of ideas to write and take to Edinburgh.
“I was unsure at first whether I wanted to write something so personal” said Annie. “But I feel as though I owe it to Grace as she suffered so severely and because no one really knows what encephalitis is.”
Grace, who was affected at only three weeks old, is one of around 6,000 people each year in the UK who are struck down by encephalitis.
The condition can leave survivors with an acquired brain injury which affects abilities such as concentration, attention and judgement while also leaving them with additional challenges such as fatigue and epilepsy.
Annie said: “We are showing the effects the illness has had on Grace’s life so far – from not being able to communicate what she wants to say, to the anger pent up in her because she just doesn’t understand.
“We show the family’s point of view, particularly through Annie’s eyes, and what it all means to her and what she thinks of the whole situation.
“Our hope is it will be extremely moving and will reach out to anyone who knows someone who has suffered from encephalitis and educate those who don’t – above all it is true and honest.”
Once she had written the play, Annie enlisted the help of her fellow students to bring Tracing Grace to life. They make up the whole of the cast and crew and will be performing under the name of the Off The Wall Theatre Company. The students acting alongside Annie include Rosemary Berkon, who plays Grace, Amber Hockridge, James Monckton, Gaby French, Kit Garner, Abbie Andrews and Zachary Hart.
Tracing Grace already has the seal of approval of The Encephalitis Society, which has part-funded the production along with a CrowdFunder appeal, and which was given a standing ovation at two recent previews in London.
Simon Hattenstone, Features Writer for The Guardian and Ambassador for The Encephalitis Society, said: “Tracing Grace is angry, upsetting, tender, funny and desperately moving. Annie gives a wonderful insight into Grace’s struggle with encephalitis.”
Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of The Encephalitis Society which is based in Malton, North Yorkshire, said: “Tracing Grace offers an extraordinary insight into a sibling’s experience of encephalitis - one that is rarely documented by the arts.
“It provides us with a moving, heart-rending but, at the same time, uplifting story of one family’s experiences of this devastating condition.”
Lead actress, Rosemary Berkon, said: "I am so excited to share Grace's story with audiences in Edinburgh. I had never heard of Encephalitis before starting this project so I now realise how important it is to spread awareness, which is one of the main reasons we are doing the show."
Tracing Grace will appear at Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh, between August 6 and 13. For tickets, please visit the Tracing Grace page on the Edinburgh Fringe website.
This article is based on a press release originally distributed by The Encephalitis Society.