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Hannah Jane Walker is highly sensitive. Is this a strength or weakness?

Hannah is a poet and theatre maker. She's also a highly sensitive person.

Ahead of her latest work 'Highly Sensitive' at the Roundhouse, Hannah tells us when, what, and why she's made this show.

When was the moment you realised you are a highly sensitive person?
I suppose I have always known I was very sensitive. That is how I have always navigated the world – both emotionally and in terms of sensory processing. I have always been able to pick up on how other people are feeling through voice tone and body language and micro expressions. Everyone in my family is sensitive and I come from a big family. When I was younger I thought everyone experienced the world the same and was sometimes confused.

What specifically brought sensitivity to my attention however, is collaborating with a super talented theatre maker called Chris Thorpe on a show called The Oh Fuck Moment where the audience sit at a board room table and the show is interactive in parts. After the show in the dressing room or whatever, I would often say to Chris; ‘did you notice that woman came in so confident and got really shy during the show?’, or ‘those two people were on a date’, or ‘that man who seemed like he was going to be challenging during the show was really relaxed’. And Chris would say, ‘mate you are having a different experience to doing the show than I am.’ And that got me thinking about different ways that people experience the world.

I did some reading and I found out about the term “Highly Sensitive Person” which was coined by the psychologist and author Dr. Elaine Aron and I read the profile of the personality type and I thought yup, that is spot on.

Why did you make the show?
I made the show because I try to make work which is about something that I genuinely do not know the answer to. I usually follow a question – in this case – does sensitivity really have value, and if so how? I wanted to know the answer to that. So I set out to try and make a piece of work which created a space for a group of people to also consider that.

I also wanted to make a show that was for other highly sensitive people and people who are quite the opposite.

In my opinion – the opposite personality type has for a quite a long time had a position of privilege in many ways. It was tempting to create a show that just threw stones at that. But who wants to see that show. Instead I have tried to create a show that includes different types of people and also talks about sensitivity as both a personality type and an underused cultural value for our survival going forwards.

On a more personal level I created the show because I became a parent and I want my kid to have a good story about being sensitive.

Do you think this is a topic people are interested in and why do you think it is a big thing at the moment?
I definitely think this is a topic people are interested in. I wrote a piece for BBC Radio 4 and hundreds of strangers emailed me to share their experiences. I think the reason it is a big thing at the moment is that we have possibly become more aware of the types of voices we predominantly listen to; the types of leaders that are consistently in power. I think we are all aware we are living in a time of change, for the better or worse we do not know, but during big periods of change often old orders get thrown up into the air.

What can we expect?
To play around with eggs! To hear some stories and some poems. To hopefully share some ways of thinking. I hope that this show makes people feel hopeful.


Hannah Jane Walker
Highly Sensitive
18-20 September
At the Roundhouse


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