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AUTO-ENGRAIN: "Something can be engrained into your head from an abuser"


Botanist Kate finally decides its high time she laid it all out in therapy! Exploring how a simple thing like an ex can be embedded into the mind so everything becomes automatically engrained as normal… but it isn’t normal, is it? Kate thought so, until now.

Auto-Engrain is a dramatic, new-writing piece that explores toxicity, red flags & masturbation... with no sugar coating. 


Helena Collins O’Connor | Writer & Performer

Helena has been working in theatre for the past 10 years. A Londoner born and bred, Helena's passion is in creating work that makes heads turn. A graduate from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and resident performer at The London Bridge Experience; her recent credits include Heart of Stone, Bridgerton (Season 2, Mary Wollstonecraft in Mary Mary, D in Astronauts by Alice Birch and Arkadina in The Seagull.

She is really excited to be performing this ground-breaking work and perform as Kate.


Tabi Wells | Associate Director

Tabitha is a writer & director who began her directing career in 2019. Having trained with Director's Cut Theatre Company, her work spans a breadth of styles, texts and practitioners. She has worked on classical productions such as Romeo and Juliet, new writing for London Horror Festival and has acted in touring productions with the National Production Company. Most recently she has written the dystopian TV pilot Small Gods that is in early stages of development.


"It has been a pleasure to work on a show focused around such a crucial topic.

As a writer and a woman, I am passionate about stories that highlight the struggles women face in their everyday life, especially ones which are written in such an exquisitely visceral manner. Working with Helena has been an honour, not only to see her express such vulnerability during pre and post rehearsal discussions, but to see her shine in her performance as Kate. This is a show that everyone should see. A show for all who have been subject to toxic relationships, to show them that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. As Kate would say, growth is not for flowers alone."



Check out this Everything Theatre Podcast episode, featuring writer & performer Helena. It discusses the themes of the show, which tackles themes of coercive beheaviour, deomestic abuse, toxic relationships & female masturbation.


💬 What can you tell us about the show? 

Auto-Engrain is a one person show first written in 2019 and effectively a 65 minute show with no interval. 

We see Kate, who is a botanist, who is coming into her third stint of therapy. The audience is a fly on the wall to watching that happen and in it she is very unapologetic and she thinks ‘do you know what I just really need to talk about everything; from speed dating to masturbation to toxicity in relationships, red flags, police incompetence because at the time the whole situation with Sarah Everrad was happening so I felt like it was important to include parts of that and opinions and feeling at the time as it was difficult. 

Kate as a character analyses things as she goes through a scientific brain as a Botanist from studying molecular activity in plants so she uses those to help sort of understand what she’s been through overall with toxicity. 

💬 So your main character Kate: she’s a botanist. Is that something you have an interest in or have a background in?

The way that the botany came into play was when I was writing Auto-Engrain, it was the idea about how an idea can be engrained into your head from someone else like from an abuser, and they make you get to the point where they make you believe everything is true. With that it is like a seed. The play is written into chapters, and it talks from the seed, to the growth to roots to harvest. In your head if you can imagine it as a root in soil format that is how these ideas fluctuate. Then I started to think it would be really interesting to really push that so making Kate scientific and analytical which is a contrast to me; it not only gave her more personality and changes the way she directs her answers but it created a safety net from that auto-biographical point of view. I think its really important when you’re dealing with difficult subject matter you’re close to as an artist you need to create that barrier. 

She loves using plant analogy as a way to say how she’s feeling and how it affects her. 

💬 And lets talk about the themes: toxicity and red flags – does this allude to a previous relationship?


We see a lot in the news, do you think it’s a topic where we are not addressing the problems, do we need to discuss this differently?

I feel like the world is definitely getting better. The way that the law is changing now in terms of police assistance it is definitely changing for the better. I feel like though with every kind of subject whether it is racism or homophobia, hate crimes you can’t let it go to bed because its never going to fully be resolved, something will always come up. With domestic abuse, gaslighting and coercive behaviour all those levels, if you don’t keep addressing them, people aren’t going to know. Theres a sense of naivety. What I want people to take away from this show is I want people to see the signs. Its keeping that conversation going. 

💬 How do shows like yours help address it? 

It’s about coming away with an opinion. And a thought process where you think ‘oh I want to talk about this’. Its creating an incentive and a spark in the audience. You can create a small change.