5 Reasons We’re Excited about Ravi Thornton’s Hoax

6th Jun 2014

Inside cover of Hoax: Psychosis Blues by Ravi Thornton
A cross-media project based on poems written by her brother during the midst of his battle with schizophrenia, Ravi Thornton's work looks at pre- and post-diagnosis Rob using theatre and graphic novel...

The latest project from cross-media script writer Ravi Thornton is a musical and accompanying graphic novel based on a poem called ‘Hoax’ written by her brother Rob as he was suffering from schizophrenia.

The musical called Hoax: My Lonely Heart is running in The Studio at the Manchester Exchange Theatre this week and looks at events leading up to Rob’s diagnosis.

The accompanying book, Hoax: Psychosis Blues, looks at the nine years post-diagnosis and features nine of Rob’s poems, each representing an other-worldly section, enfolded within a present-day narrative.

We love Ravi’s work, and after an exclusive chat with her earlier this week, here’s five reasons we’re really excited about what she’s doing with Hoax

The nature of the media and why she chose them

“When I was looking back over his [Robs’] work I was reminded of how his particular illness manifested itself. Sometimes it was so immediate and so in your face and so, sort of, alarming and other times it was just so utterly impassive and distant. Or internalised as opposed to externalised; extremes, really. I wanted to kind of convey both of those aspects and then I decided right, so I can see how sequential art, graphic novel in this case, would work for the more internalised part. It’s a quieter, not less powerful, but a quieter way of telling that part of the story. So you have that space and you have that time to take it in at your own pace. Whereas stage was always going to be a good idea for doing something that was more external and more immediate.”

How the process relates back to the story

Philippines-based artist Leonardo M. Giron (AKA “Glen”) illustrated the real-world narrative and was the only artist to receive the full script and know what everybody else was doing. The other artists only got the script for their part of the story and the small part of the real-world script that led into their section.

“They knew context but they didn’t know what was happening either side. And that was really quite important to me with this project because I wanted them to have that sense that they didn’t know what was going on and that there was an isolation in what they were doing because that’s part of schizophrenia. Everything that went into making the decisions behind it, and the musical as well, are all multi layered and they all work back to the nature of the story itself.”

The incredible range of artists used and her commitment to featuring new creatives

“I tend to very much work for the individual or individuals that I’m writing for, I like to research them as much as I can and write to their strengths, but I also like to push them out of their comfort zones […] There were some artists who weren’t comic artists, who were fine artists, and I knew I wanted to bring them on board.”

Some of the artists she knew through her publisher, Jonathan Cape, and others she knew from the creative community. Alongside big names in the comics world such as Bryan Talbot, Rian Hughes and Hannah Berry are three emerging artists.

Ravi Thornton also feels strongly about empowering women in the industry:

“I knew Rhiana Jade and Ian Jones from other projects but Rozi Hathaway I didn’t know at all. It was just really important to me that I bring somebody into the project who was an unknown, the fact that it’s a female is a bonus. If I’d found the right work and it wasn’t a female obviously I’d go with the right work to serve the story but it happened that it was Rozi and she’s great.”

Local collaboration

Boltonian Ravi Thornton grew up underneath the sunny skies of the North West before moving around and living in London for a while. She moved back to the area a few years ago and is now settled here.

As she was thinking about the Hoax project, Manchester-based director, Benji Reid, a fan of her work, got in touch about the possibility of collaborating.

Thornton was keen on local collaboration and showed him the ‘Hoax’ poem which became a starting point for the staged part of the project. She reckons “Manchester has a really supportive arts community,” and we agree!

It's a very honest project but it's still fictionalised and it was really important to me that what this project did was tell a story of a young man who has schizophrenia and that the story was built on his humanity rather than the illness.

The story is about the man with the illness, not the illness itself

“It’s a very honest project but it’s still fictionalised and it was really important to me that what this project did was tell a story of a young man who has schizophrenia and that the story was built on his humanity rather than the illness […] I think, I hope that everybody who reads this will feel it in some way, whether they have any experience of the situation or situations they [the characters] are in or not and that’s because it’s a story and stories can affect anybody.”

Thornton’s work certainly is affecting and the poems in Hoax: Psychosis Blues open a window into Rob’s world.

“I think what this story does is, it takes these very slight moments of reality and then you have these poems which are from my brother’s mind at the time so it’s not necessarily about the illness it’s about it’s him in the midst of that illness. I think the difference is because it’s not a story that I wrote from beginning to end it’s a framework built around those pictures of his mind during those years so it’s a bit different in that way. It’s not me saying ‘Here’s a mental illness piece,’ it’s just ‘Here’s his life,’ and you can just see this man and what he was thinking as he went through that life and I think that’s what makes it really effective.”

Hoax: My Lonely Heart has sold out but you can order her book here and there is a book launch at Sandista Cantina Bar, Old Bank Street, Manchester from 10.30pm til late on Saturday 7th June.

Profits from sales of Hoax: Psychosis Blues through Ziggy’s Wish go towards mental health charities.

Ravi Thornton tweets @ravithornton and you can also find out more about her other award-winning work at her website.