There are many shows in which mental health issues are included, more as a sub-plot or background subject. In Owls, the new stage show directed by Calum McDonald, the topic is brought right to the forefront.

It follows the tale on Anna, a young woman who suffers from serious mental health issues, and Steve, the “hapless” security guard who finds her on the roof of a multi-storey car park. He arrives on the scene just as Anna attempts to take her own life.

The story follows the journey of these two individuals, what they learn about each other and more importantly what they learn about themselves.

For Calum, the aim of the play is to make people think about mental health.

He says: “This is a play that has a rather extreme but at the same time simplistic setting and story.

“Owls focuses on just how large an impact mental health issues can affect not just one person’s life but indeed the people around them.

“I was drawn to the play as it doesn’t put the issue in a tight nutshell and doesn’t advise or answer any questions. It simply presents the issue and asks the questions that need to be asked.

He adds that it is often the pressures of society that can put a mental health strain on people, especially younger people, and that he is greatly aware of how it has affected people around him.

The process of writing Owls has been nearly two years in the making.

Starting out as a short 15-minute play, it was the development and lives of the characters that convinced Calum and his co-director Jayne Woodhouse to turn the show into a full-length production.

Despite the length of the show changing, the key thing for Calum was that the message remained the same: “The script went through many drafts and revisions to make it performance ready. We kept the original cast as we felt they really inhabited the roles and had been with the play since the beginning.”

With twists and turns along the way, Owls is a gripping tale which will not only tug on your heart strings but also make you laugh.

Given the subject matter, laughs may seem inappropriate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He says:, “Comedy will always be the most inviting and welcoming form of theatre for an audience. It is not a “nice to have” in a play, nowadays it becomes a necessity for bringing the audience into the world we as creatives work hard to create.

“Mine and Jayne’s attitude to our work is that the best way to get a message across to people is to make them laugh. People are always more receptive and open once they are warm with humour.

“The comedy in Owls doesn’t make light of the topic or situation, but it instead allows the audience to recline for a moment as the play deepens into a tough subject.”

Calum also believes that, despite more attention and care being paid to it in recent years, there is still a stigma attached to mental health which stems from the fact that, in part, it needs to be self-diagnosed.

“You have to diagnose yourself by recognising that something isn’t quite right.

“Mental health issues will always be extremely difficult to describe as it is very prevalent and real to the person suffering but to someone else it can seem quite invisible. People dislike and misinterpret what they cannot see or understand,” Calum says.

He adds that anxiety, and other similar mental health symptoms, may be suffered by people all the time, but that it is not the same as a mental health disorder: “Everyone at least once has experienced at some point in their life symptoms of a mental health issue such as being anxious due to a work deadline or a large bill to pay, or perhaps feeling depressed after a family bereavement.

“But then as the problem has subsided or time has passed they may find themselves returned to their previous state.”