The HOAX Project was a crossmedia tour that immersed audiences and participants in the true-life story of its main character, Rob. The project was based on an eponymous poem written in 2004 by the 31-year-old Mancunian, who was living with an ultimately fatal mental health condition, schizophrenia.
After Rob took his own life in 2008, his sister, Ravi Thornton, turned his poems into a trilogy combining a stage musical, a take-home copy of a graphic novel and access to an app. The app invites users to take part in research aimed at helping people with psychosis in the future.
Tracing the period leading to Rob’s first major breakdown, the musical opened in 2014 at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, running for four sold-out nights and receiving outstanding reviews. The National Lottery funded tour followed in 2017, visiting traditional theatres in Barnsley, Grimsby and Salford as well as an Army reservist centre in Liverpool and a community centre in York.
The graphic novel told Rob’s story after the period covered by the musical as he struggled with schizophrenia. It has won several awards including Comics in Education, Graphic Novel of the Year and British Comic Awards Best Book.
A post show discussion with the cast, audience and crew was held after every performance. The work continues with the aim of pushing the boundaries of engagement, involvement and impact around suicide and mental illness – dedicated to raising awareness, talking about mental health issues, and making it easier to get help.
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