Merging theatre, dance and comedy, Brighton-based duo The Hiccup Project explore mental trauma and vulnerability. By EDWIN GILSON.

WE CAN all relate to the sinking feeling of being met with an awkward response in conversation. Call it oversharing, too much information, whatever – it can be difficult to know how personal or revealing we should be in any given social situation. Cristina MacKerron, one half of Brighton-based theatre-dance duo The Hiccup Project, calls this the “vulnerability hangover”.

“It’s that moment when your vulnerability is unwelcome. You might share something that gets a strange response – silence or laughter or ‘What are you going on about?’ That kind of response can stop people from ever talking about something again.” In their new production, It’s OK, I’m Dealing With It, MacKerron and Chess Dillon-Reams share some of their own vulnerabilities while exploring the central question of the show: “In a world that needs everything to be fine, what do we do when things aren’t ok?”

While MacKerron acknowledges the heightened exposure of mental health issues in today’s society, she says: “we live in a culture that is based around quick fixes. We don’t face things head on. It can become incredibly difficult to cope with life events and past experiences.” MacKerron stresses that the show isn’t about specific traumas or accidents, more about the wider reaction to vulnerability. While stigma around asking for help is thankfully diminishing – or so it seems – MacKerron points out that it can still be “scary”.

“It’s easier to put a lid on it and let it bubble away inside. Exploring what’s really going on takes time and energy. It’s painful.” Presenting mental suffering through performance sounds a daunting prospect but MacKerron says it’s made more manageable by merging art forms. Bringing together dance, theatre and comedy is a “natural fusion” for The Hiccup Project. In terms of the motivation behind It’s OK, I’m Dealing With It, is catharsis a relevant term?

“Well, there’s certainly an honesty and a rawness and depth in what we’re doing that is a release in some sense. But that’s not why we’re doing it. Primarily, we want to connect with people. “We went to a party when we first started making the show. It felt like there were a lot of things going wrong in people’s lives but they were very keen to say it was all fine. The Hiccup Project’s other show at the festival, May-We-Go-Round? (The Spire, May 25) is “even more of a reflection of our own stories”, according to MacKerron. Its focus is romance, be it short summer flings or deep love.

The catalyst for the production was DillonReams’ old diary, which had “brilliant extracts”. “We thought it was gold dust. When we were making the show it felt like lots of people in their early and mid-20s were embroiled in this merry-go-ground of romance; loving it, hating it, but always going back to it. It seemed to correlate with Chess’s ten year old diary.

“It isn’t completely about frivolous dating, it’s also about the heart-breaking lows and the tremendous highs of romantic encounters.” The Hiccup Project should be applauded for the bold approach to staging real life issues in unflinching yet creative fashion. While it takes courage to present such themes, for MacKerron the benefits far outweigh the perils. “It can be challenging but the plus side is that we’re making work which says what we want to say. The best work is honest and true and real.”

It’s Ok, I’m Dealing With It, The Spire, Eastern Street, Wednesday, May 24, 8pm, £12.50