Brand new writing from Chris Mayo with this interesting examination of mental health in today’s world. It was produced by Cuckoo Bang a company devoted to producing fresh and provocative work. Performed at the very trendy Proud Archivist in Hackney and surrounded on two sides by the canal, this was one groovy venue.
Inspired by a series of face to face and online anonymous interviews from over 50 people, the story looks at people’s different responses to various disorders, how they go about seeking treatment, the side effects of their illness, and the reactions they get from friends, partners and colleagues.
There was some sharp writing in this piece and Chris’s comic background came through in several very fast and witty comic exchanges. The story itself however sometimes got lost in all the cast changes. It was an ambitious narrative trying to give us at least four different stories that sometimes became a bit unclear. As listed, over 40 characters were played by six actors. In this situation characters must be clearly identified, otherwise things become tricky for the audience. The cast of six, despite this epic challenge, managed to bring real authenticity and realism to many of the significant characters they portrayed.
Elin Doyle’s therapist/date character was extremely effective as was her acting of a depressed wife. Louise Trigg’s self-harming teen was real and moving and came together beautifully with Matt Lim’s depressed worker. Both characters had a disturbing honesty. Holly Mallet, showed a lot of versatility in her characters and brought the piece to a moving conclusion leading the a capella version of Gnarls Barkely’s ‘Crazy’. Paul Huntley-Thomas’s over the top characters were just that, and showed real range when playing the husband to Elin’s wife. Finally, Dan Burman gave an effective portrayal of his characters and seemed to get a lot of the good laughs from the script.
There was a surreal moment in the middle of the piece with a mad game show for those suffering from mental health problems, something that could genuinely be conceived by TV producers determined to turn any human experience into a reality TV show hit
There were highs and lows to this piece. It was a good attempt at writing by a young and up and coming playwright, who will certainly benefit from this show. All six actors gave solid all round performances.
Dramatic highlight – The moment right in the middle of the show when all actors came on stage, talking over each other about the doses of medication they take and side effects. Full of energy and discomfort!