Damn Cheek Artistic Director Darren Cheek on how we could all benefit from a bit more playfulness in our lives (especially in 2022!)

The last 3 years haven’t exactly been a bundle of fun.

And as I write this, the months ahead look to be a bit of a challenge too. What with global armed conflict, economic meltdown, the climate crisis and the conscious, cruel persecution of those not in the ‘rich’ category, this could well be a winter of discontent. 

Right now, the world can sometimes feel out of balance, threatening, an unsafe place to be.

So, obviously, we all ought to be knuckling down. Putting full-time energy into tackling the challenges. Working uber-hard to keep disaster at bay.  Right?

Well, partly right. I’m not denying there’s a lot that needs be done to right the wrongs and bring us back to a safe world. But work is never the entire story. There’s another crucial side to life, another essential element to managing our short-term difficulties and ensuring our long-term health and happiness.

Play.

Yes, play. Fun. Enjoyment. Games. Letting the solemn focus go for a while and getting light-hearted, curious and just a bit ridiculous. Emerging safely on the other side of struggle isn’t just about effort but also about entertainment, not just about working hard but also about allowing ourselves to play.

Right now, the human race doesn’t take play seriously enough. But play not only boosts our immune system, not only refills our emotional ‘tank’,  but also gives us motivation and energy to tackle that ‘winter of discontent’ – and any other of life’s seasons that are dragging us down. 

If people played more, we’d all be not only more cheerful, more upbeat, more contented. We’d also be more able to cope with the above-mentioned problems in our individual lives and in the world. 

Play is one of my own lifelong drivers – one that’s informed not only my acting and directing role with Damn Cheek but also my role as a therapist helping others live their most fulfilled lives. I grab the opportunity to play (and to be silly!) whenever I can. And I love to offer others the opportunity and the encouragement to do the same.

Which is why I was so thrilled to meet Katie Taylor, whose beautiful theatre creation Lost and Found was a central production of Damn Cheek’s 2021–22 season. And now I’m continuing to be thrilled as Katie and I – bringing our very different talents and enthusiasms – are offering you Serious Play, a 90-minute Zoom workshop which encourages relaxation, enjoyment and a sprinkling of silliness thrown in for good measure.

So… what will the workshop look like, sound like, feel like? 

Bottom line, Serious Play is an invitation. Katie and I will be inviting you to do activities – some on your own, others in breakout pairs and groups. We’ll be inviting you to think, talk, stay still, move around. We’ll be inviting you to join in games – many based on our own experience as actors, clowns, performers. We’ll be inviting you to step outside your daily life for a while and to build your own play style, the one that you can safely relax into. 

Now, I do know that the idea of a play workshop can seem a bit worrying! Isn’t play irresponsible, immature, self-indulgent? And won’t the workshop be a bit scary, won’t you be expected to do weird stuff?

Let me reassure you. Play produces benefits only if you feel at ease with it. So every invitation we offer in Serious Play is optional. You only do what you are comfortable with. You do so in the comfort of your own home. And you stay safe throughout. 

What is also important here is that the workshop is an invitation to a wide audience. Because one of the great wonders of the internet is that it can create an equal, accessible, inclusive space for everyone – which is always a fundamental principle of what we at Damn Cheek do both on and offline. 

So. For 90 minutes on Saturday 29 October, set work aside. Soften your focus. Allow yourself to enjoy. 

And join us in some Serious Play.

Discover more about the Serious Play workshop and book your place!