'I had to find humour in trauma': Play to explore struggles of brain injury

Kristin Mcilquham

Kristin Mcilquham will showcase the progress of her one-person show - Headcase - on November 20. - Credit: Sarah Cresswell

A show exploring the effects of brain injury, written and performed by a Romford performer, is set to be shown at Queen’s Theatre.  

Kristin Mcilquham, 40, has found time in between her job as an actor, teacher and founder of an extra's agency to create a semi-autobiographical show called Headcase.  

The one-hour play depicting brain injury will firstly be shown as a “progress show” at Queen’s Theatre on November 20 and later, as the finished article, on February 20.  

Supported by Arts Council England and directed by Laura Keefe, the comedic performance is based on Kristin's experiences living with her father William Mcilquham after he suffered from a brain haemorrhage in the 80s.  

Kristin said creating a one-person show was on her list of things to do before she hit 40. 

Following an accident which caused her dad to suffer three brain haemorrhages, Kristin's childhood was impacted by the changes she noticed in her dad's personality.  

“It was quite difficult growing up with a parent that had a brain injury. Dad’s personality shifted quite a lot.  

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“I remember in my younger years I found it difficult to deal with as some of his behaviour was quite challenging,” said Kristin.  

Knowing that she wanted to tell her dad’s story, Kristin decided a one-person play would be the ideal way to portray the struggles, but also comedic elements, of her childhood. 

She added: “Throughout the play we draw on the 80's and 90's pop culture, my dad’s life beforehand and some of the outrageous things he has said.  

“The show is light-hearted and accessible to everyone and a lot of it is joyful and funny.”  

Speaking of reanimating some of the difficult memories, Kirstin said: “I had to find the humour in the trauma.”  

Aiming to raise awareness of brain injury, Kristin said it is important to remember that “no two brain injuries are the same”. 

She added: “I hope people will walk away with a greater understanding of how common it is, and how sometimes in life when you see people, you don’t know what’s happened to them.

"My dad had an invisible disability.”  

The Queen’s Theatre is the first theatre Kristin went to as a young girl; she said opening her show there is “really lovely”.