This family production, written by Louisa Ashton of theatre company Sparkle and Dark, asks the question: what happens when the wildest parts of our imagination take control? It follows teenager Ellie, who disappears into comic books and a fantasy world after the death of her mother. The production includes puppetry, music and visual effects. Ashton tells EDWIN GILSON more.

You said you wanted to open up a discussion about mental health and young people. Was that the catalyst for I Am Beast?

If I’m honest, at first it wasn’t just about young people. Mental health is something that’s interested us for a long time. To begin with we wanted to explore the experience and confusion of the dark places we can go to in our minds. The first question we asked was “what happens when you face the darkest part of yourself ?” We thought about what it would be like if that was an entity – what would it look like? That’s the beast in the title.

Is any part of the show based on your own teenage experience?

I remember going through a crazy time as a teenager. People don’t talk about how serious it can be. Teenage years affect you for your whole life. I didn’t experience a bereavement as the character in the show does but I’ve known a lot of people who have.

Do you feel a sense responsibility when performing I Am Beast to a young audience, who might not have thought about or understood mental health issues before?

Each person’s experience of grief is very different. With creating fiction you have to take risks. Some people have related to Ellie’s grief and some people have said it’s very different to their own experience. People get quite passionate about trauma. Some people said it was almost too much to watch. We worked with teenagers in London, talking about bereavement. We worked with a drama therapist and we looked at imagery that related to death. We talked about death quite candidly.

How do comic books and superheroes factor into the plot?

Comic books become a way to work through what’s going on in Ellie’s mind. Her dreams of being a superhero give her some control in her real life. The comic book transposes into her real life and the people she knows. It’s about having power and some sort of control.

Does the production promote the power of the imagination but warn against losing touch with the real world?

It’s much more complex than that. The beast character starts to appear in both her real life and imagination. She embraces the beast in a way that gives her the tools to explain what she is going through. It’s not so much getting lost through fantasy – she becomes more internal because it’s so hard to be external. It’s less about being lost and more about finding people and more about finding people and things who can help Ellie through her loss. 

I Am Beast, Brighton Fringe, The Warren: Main House, Saturday to Monday, 4pm, £11.50, call 01273 987516 or visit