Laurene Hope of Holmer Green is a one-woman dynamo.
In spite of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she founded Moving On Theatre and uses it to boost the profile of mental health issues at sell-out shows up and down the country.
She started the company four years ago to prove that age – she’s now 58 – is no barrier to talent and that it’s good to give back.
And she’s threatening to belt out Maris Callas arias in front of BBC and ITV studios so she can be invited in to discuss the UK’s therapeutic communities.
The classically trained singer and actress considers herself their ambassador. She says simply: “The one in Aylesbury changed my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be here.”
She’s on a mission to raise funds and awareness so that many more people with mental illness can benefit from them as she has.
Laurene claims the therapeutic community enabled her to live her life without medication or drugs.
She explains: “It was tough and I was bullied, but it gave me a ‘tool box’ to help myself. It taught me to think before I say anything. It showed me how to be more respectful, to see other people as important and to try to empathise with them.
“People with mental attitudes think the world is against them, they feel guilty about everything. I would fall out with everyone, I was angry. But you can find inner peace if you work really hard.”
Laurene was with a Getting Ready group for a year before joining the Therapeutic Community for two years. Although it was only three days a week, participants were supported 24/7.
Laurene has always been passionate about theatre and uses her current show Piaf: Love Conquers All – which will be at the Leicester Square Theatre next month – to educate the public about mental health.
“It’s Piaf’s life story but also her breakdowns,” she says. “She was very, very sensitive and she turned to drink and drugs.
“My speciality is divas,” she smiles, before revealing she will star as Maria Callas in her next production. “Women my age find it difficult getting parts, unless they’re Judy Dench or Maggie Smith. But I intend to break the stigma.”
She’s looking for funding and sponsors, in particular an amateur orchestra who would be comfortable with her missionary zeal around mental health.
> If you’d like to help Laurene, visit www.movingontheatre.co.uk