Sorting out the mentally well from the mentally ill is not always as clear-cut as we may think, as Sharu Delilkan discovers.

Vikki Cottingham is excited about directing at the annual Titirangi Theatre Challenge for the third consecutive year.

The

RETHiNK Theatre Challenge

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, presented by Titirangi Theatre, showcases four plays this week during Mental Health Awareness Week. RETHiNK and the 48-hour challenge are all about destigmatising people's notions of mental illness. Directors and writers met a few weeks ago to prepare and ensure everything would run smoothly before the curtain goes up.

Luke Derrick, the young writer of

Beautiful Minds

, the piece Cottingham is directing, says he was elated when he heard his play was among the 10 scripts shortlisted for the show.

"I knew I wanted to write something, but I wanted to challenge people's perceptions," says the 17-year-old. "So I did the opposite, making the people without mental illness the 'strange' and 'different' people in my piece."

It was that point of difference that attracted Cottingham to

Beautiful Minds

.

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"Having suffered postnatal depression for about a year in my early 20s, I know for a fact that people are shunned because of mental illness. I particularly feel for the youth of today who I believe have a raw deal, being shoved into the production line of technology."

Cottingham and Derrick say they clicked immediately when they met, just a couple of weeks ago. That's why she has made a concerted effort to ensure the young playwright is included in every step of the production, even casting.

"He brings a great freshness with his uplifting energy and ideas. Luke is like an effervescent drink that's just bubbling over with enthusiasm."

RETHiNK Theatre Challenge, Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House, 418 Titirangi Rd, Titirangi, Oct 9, and Classic Comedy Club, Queen St, Oct 10. Tickets: ph 361 1000 or see www.iticket.co.nz