Hamilton Fringe Festival

An 11-day unjuried theatre festival that happens every summer in downtown Hamilton

A Story That Must Be Told: The Ties That Bind

Posted by on Jul 16, 2016


The Hamilton Fringe talked to James Ince, writer and actor of the solo show The Ties That Bind. Here’s what he had to say about his writing process, coming to Hamilton, and ending the stigma of mental illness. 

Can you describe a little bit of how this play came together, and why theatre felt like the right medium to communicate this story?

The Ties That Bind is a story that must be told, but it is the type of story that is not told nearly often enough — the story of the survivor; the story of the person who lives with Mental Illness, not the sufferer.  Sam Ward’s story began to emerge about eight years ago.  I was painting images of emotions (if you will) and despair.  I found myself painting the same image over and over, just able to convey what I was trying to say and I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is just not the right medium.” I began first with writing just words, or lists, some of which still exist in the final piece. Then, seemingly otherworldly, “Sam Ward” seemed to be writing the words of “his story” himself.  It was as though he was working through me, through another dimension, or time, or — dare I say — another past.  That was many years ago and I have been a happy prisoner ever since!  Through several years of work, slowly, carefully but always methodically forward, Sam Ward’s story was finally told.  It is an honour to continue telling it here at the Hamilton Fringe.

You describe your play as a “brutally dark comedy about mental illness.” How does humour fit into this piece and help tell and humanize a tale of living with depression?

I honestly feel that laughter is, maybe not “the best medicine,” but certainly an important, healing and powerful tool.  I think it is more Sam’s perspective in which he views the world we live in as having a lot of humour in it — even absurd at times.  Sam has a lot of heart; I think that even when it is at his very darkest moments, he is always searching and reaching for the light. And that light is hope.


Photo of James Ince by Julia Fice

Your show description mentions that the main character has “spent most of his life trying to deal with the fact that he is not normal, which is normal to him.” How is this idea of normality destructive? How does the show treat the idea of “normality”?

I think everyone, at one time or another, has probably felt “apart from” or out of place whether they care to admit it or not.  I think people are terribly afraid to admit that.  The danger of “normal” I think, is that it is a misconception, a lie.  So even if people try to “fit in,” what we’re all really just trying to do is hide — both from ourselves and to those around us.  I don’t mean with clothing, hairstyles or the music we choose to listen to, but at the very core of our beings.  As Sam Ward says, “If we’re all different, if we’re all individuals, then what exactly is “normal?”

What do you want Hamilton audiences to take away from this work?

I would like the audience to take away an idea, a thought. Our Souls’ goal with The Ties That Bind is to continue the dialogue about people living with Mental Illness.  Through dialogue there is compassion.  Through compassion comes understanding and action, and we as a society have quite some way to go I’m afraid. The best example I can give is that when Robin Williams died by suicide some years ago, there was actually quite a bit of dialogue going on…for a while.  Six weeks later all that people could talk about was Kim Kardashian’s dress.  You get the idea.

James INCE 2

Photo of James Ince by Julia Fice

You have performed this show at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace before and are remounting it in Hamilton. Where do you hope to go with the piece?

We are taking it on day or one festival at a time! Hamilton IS a great place and it is very exciting to be here!   There are some plans for later this summer, but the announcement on that is just going to have to wait a bit longer.  Of course we’d love to have a bigger, longer run back in Toronto someday, though I think it is critical that we get the show out there now.  Have as many people see it and experience it as possible.  We at Our Souls are along for the ride just as much as anyone is!  Please enjoy and be well!



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The Ties That Bind


Playwright: James Ince
Director: Istvan Dugalin
Cast: James Ince

Thurs, July 14: 9:00pm
Sat, July 16: 7:30pm
Sun, July 17: 3:30pm
Mon, July 18: 7:30pm
Wed, July 20: 6:00pm
Sat, July 23: 2:00pm
Sun, July 24: 6:00pm

80 minutes

Tickets: $10 (Fringe Backer Button Required)

Warnings: Mature Content, Strong Language