Tag: mental illness

REVIEW: Christopher Durang’s LAUGHING WILD

Slick satire performed with aplomb

By Myron My

In Christopher Durang’s satirical comedy Laughing Wild, we meet two socially marginalised people struggling to survive in the modern world. They are known as The Woman and The Man. A chance encounter over tuna forces them to look into themselves and each other and attempt to find what it is they really want.

Laughing Wild

Laughing Wild is mainly set up in three scenes – it begins with a monologue by The Woman, a mentally-ill person obsessed with television. Gradually, her fragility and vulnerability begin to come through amid all the humour and jokes. This is followed by a monologue by The Man, a queer and quaint person who is looking to better himself and remain at peace with his spirit.

The third scene is where things get a little more complicated and surreal and there are some great moments including a number of backwards scenes and a hilarious interview in the style of Sally Jesse Raphael with the Infant of Prague which was quite something to witness.

Rani Pramesti carries a certain distinct charisma with her that I’ve not seen on stage for quite a while. Her embodiment of The Woman is more than impressive and the naturalism with which she delivers her lines – often at ridiculous speeds – is testament to the time and effort she must have put in perfecting this role. Her mannerisms and movement all served to construct a woman who is slightly unhinged and erratic.

Similarly, Daniel Last as The Man does exceptionally well in humanizing a character who is hell-bent on remaining positive. While The Woman was more loud and animated, Last did well in showing the restraint of The Man and exploring many of the same fears and worries as his female counterpart but in a fascinatingly different way.

Despite being set in the 80s, the themes of mental illness, loneliness, sexuality and politics are all still prevalent issues today and Durang’s work has clearly passed the test of time. Laughing Wild is a great character piece by two strong performers who are more than capable of carrying this comedic but demanding production.

Venue: Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Season: Until 1 March 2:00pm, 7:00pm.

Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/71486

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REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre Presents BLUE/ORANGE

Profound theatre – and prodigious talent

By Bradley Storer

After a stunning debut with their acclaimed production of The Laramie Project, Mockingbird Theatre Company continues their winning streak with a smaller-scaled but equally impressive showing of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange. This three-person play provides fantastic opportunities for the skilled actors of the company in its complex exploration of themes of mental illness, racism, colonialism and culture.

BlueOrange

The plot is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of a young African man under two psychiatrists with opposing approaches to mental illness. Kane Felsinger as the institutionalized Christopher is phenomenal, dispatching the play’s fierce Mamet-like dialogue with ferocity while never letting us forget the real emotional pain underneath his at times off-putting persona. Christopher, diagnosed continually as sitting somewhere in ‘the borders between psychotic and neurotic’, draws both his doctors and the audience through the blurry boundaries between delusion, deception and uncertainty.

Richard Edge as Robert, the older and more pragmatic psychiatrist, embodies a man who is characterized mainly by his own mediocrity alongside surprising vitality. This man, who at first attempts to downplay and normalize Christopher’s disorder before endeavouring to exploit it as fodder for his own academic gain, seems like that archetypal charismatic and slightly sociopathic career-climber we encounter in every kind of field, instantly recognizable and creepily personable. Christian Heath as Bruce, Christopher’s younger and more compassionate psychiatrist, provides a strong moral and emotional centre to the story which anchors events amongst flurries of academic debate and cultural abstraction.

The three actors are all equally brilliant, and director Chris Baldock has done a fantastic job of choreographing them into shifting patterns of empathy and aggression which make them simultaneously sympathetic and antagonistic. Even as the two doctors aim to heal Christopher his mental illness becomes simply another instrument in their battle, echoing the marginalization and exploitation of ethnic and social minorities in patriarchal Western culture which continues even today.

A wonderful and thrilling night of contemporary theatre meditating on grand macrocosmic themes, but with the aid of magnificently talented actors never leaves behind the confusion and painful reality of everyday life.

Dates: Thur 28 Feb – Sat 2 March 8pm, Sun 3 March 5pm, Tue 5 March – Sat 9 March 8pm, Sat 9 March at 2pm

Venue: Broken Mirror Studios, 2c Staley St, Brunswick

Tickets: Bookings available here

Review: JO LOTH in Mind Games

Intense, evocative – and enlightening…

By Bradley Storer

To the straining sound of discordant guitar, a desperate woman trapped in material resembling a strait-jacket plunges through the performance space of The Butterfly Club. Before our eyes this lost soul escapes her confinement, and with the simple addition of a blonde wig transforms into the domineering Dr Jolene Mindtrick who guides us through the first steps on this journey – the mind plays tricks, she tells us, and we must learn to control it.

Performer Jo Loth, who emerges immediately after the appearance of Dr Mindtrick to speak directly to the audience, has crafted a confronting cabaret work based on her interviews with sufferers of mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder. It is also partly based on Loth’s own experiences, she openly admits at the beginning of the evening. 

A cavalcade of characters and their experiences and ways of coping with their disorders are introduced, each one explored in heart-breakingly realistic fashion through a variety of different original songs. The wide range of styles which appear, including opera, country and rap, seem particularly appropriate as different expressions of the broad spectrum of psychotic illness.

This is cabaret in its most intimate form, as Loth delves into the most and delicate aspects of the human psyche. Although the show remains, on the whole, light-hearted, it is not a show which elicits deep belly laughs from what it depicts: we are placed directly into the mindset of someone teetering close to the edge of complete breakdown or suicide. When Loth enacts parts of her own struggle with depression onstage, it feels like a precious gift is being given to the audience – we are not merely being told what it is like to suffer mental illness, but are being shown and made to experience this landscape of despair directly.

Loth is an incredibly skilled and committed performer, swapping between personas at a moment’s notice and bringing each character to life with rich physicality and a distinctive vocal quality. Her accompanist Damien Slingsby is a wonder, accompanying both on piano and electric guitar, expertly beat-boxing and even singing a song of his own which touches the heart with its simplicity and sincere emotion.

The reoccuring spectre of Dr Mindtrick, a symbol of the repression and denial which prevents sufferers from reaching out and seeking help for their pain, is a sharp and powerful reminder of the show’s primary message: the hidden and devastating pain of mental illness can only begin to heal if we acknowledge its existence. Mind Games, in bringing that message to light, is incredibly moving and ultimately uplifting.

Date: Thurs 7th to Sun 10th June
Time: Thurs to Sat at 7pm, Sun at 6pm
Ticket price:$23/$20 conc/$18 group

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank St, South Melbourne

Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com