When Dan Goodwin was mugged while walking through a London park, his life took an unexpected turn – not because of the crime itself but because of what followed.
Passersby who stopped to help Goodwin, now 25, found him conscious but unaware of what was going on around him; ambulance staff who assessed him found he'd recovered some of his composure but recommended he talk to a GP about the "dissociative episode" he'd had.
Given it wasn't the first time he'd experienced a breakdown in his memory, awareness, identity and perception – individual episodes lasting no more than about 20 minutes – Goodwin took their advice.
Within weeks, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia which can, at times, make it difficult for those with the condition to think clearly, manage thoughts and emotions, relate to others and distinguish between what is and isn't real.
Then a Masters student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Goodwin knew little about schizophrenia and turned to "Dr Google" for information which left him with more questions than answers.
"It was like a gut punch," he says, "I went to drama school convinced I was going to write plays about being gay then this happened. I had so many questions I wanted answers to but because of the subjectivity of schizophrenia – it's so different for each individual – I couldn't really get definite answers."
He decided early to focus on "living well" rather than "treatment"– eat healthily, exercise, rest and be open with friends and family – and accept schizophrenia was now part of his life.
Supported by family, friends and his RADA supervisor, Tom Hunsinger, Goodwin completed his MA and made Breathe, a solo show about his diagnosis, which scored him that year's top mark for the practical component of his degree.
"I've always been a very inquisitive person so I wanted to get to the bottom of it," he says. "Making a show about it was something that I wanted to do for myself, at first. It was part of the process of taking ownership of it."
Now back home in Auckland, Goodwin this week stages Breathe at the Basement Theatre. Produced by Taurima Vibes, the show is now for five performers and has moved from being about schizophrenia per say to one using poetry, conversation and storytelling to focus on connection.
"It sounds like a cliché – but clichés are cliché for a good reason – to say it's about the fact that we're all in this life together and while we might be fighting different fights, we're better off if we can fight together by communicating and connecting with one another. It's about how we all face difficulties and how we get through those."
Goodwin says it's been invaluable to work with Like Minds Like Mine and Changing Minds, an organisation led by those with lived experience of recovery from mental health and/or addiction issues that works on a range of social change projects.
Through Changing Minds, he's completed the Rākau Roroa course which trains and supports those who want to use their personal lived experience of mental distress and recovery to inspire others. Goodwin hopes Breathe could tour and already the show is scheduled to go to Wellington's BATS theatre next month.
Where & When: Basement Theatre Studio, until Saturday, August 25