Posts Tagged ‘anxiety

26
Jun
15

Fake It ’til You Make It

 

Fake It ‘til You Make It

Brisbane Powerhouse & Theatre Works

Visy Theatre

June 24 – 28 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety

 

 

Do you wake up in the morning and need help to lift your head?

Do you read obituaries and feel jealous of the dead?

It’s like living on a cliff side, not knowing when you’ll dive.

Do you know? Do you know what it’s like to die alive?

 

 

 

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Most people who think they’re happy haven’t thought about it enough.

– Diana Goodman, Next To Normal

 

 

Meet Bryony and Tim: Bryony is an outrageous, hilarious and fearless performance artist from London; Tim is an outrageous, hilarious and fearless account manager from a top advertising agency.

 

Bryony spends most of her life on tour, trying to change the world. Tim spends most of his life at a desk trying to sell the world. Six months into their relationship, Bryony discovers that Tim suffers from severe clinical depression – a secret he had kept for a very long time.

 

 

BUT WAIT. I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS WAS BRYONY KIMMINGS WHO DID THE FANNY SONG. OMG. GOLD.

 

 

 

 

BUT THE SHOW.

 

 

The show is designed to get us talking. About depression. About the signs and symptoms and what the hell to do with a person – with ourselves – when the impact of the illness becomes impossible to ignore.

 

 

It’s beautiful, powerful, poignant.

This show should be seen by everyone.

 

 

Now if you didn’t know this already, me and Tim are a real life human being couple, so this unfortunately guys is going to be a love story.

 

We’ve kind of taken out the mundanity of everyday existence for you but what we haven’t been able to cut out is all the darkness because this is a show about clinical depression.

 

 

Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn share some of their most intimate real-life moments. Basically, we’re invited into their living room to listen to their story. They are in their underwear, wearing wicker baskets on their heads, shaking maracas, and dancing and singing to the muzak so, you know, NORMAL. We feel like we know them. We feel like we should have noticed something, said something…

 

BUT THEY HAVE BEEN HIDING AND SINGING AND DANCING IN THEIR UNDERWEAR BENEATH WICKER BASKETS. HOW WERE WE TO KNOW?

 

Unabashedly, they bring us all of the complex, raw emotions – sometimes naturalistically, sometimes symbolically – of Tim’s anxiety and clinical depression, and Bryony’s unwavering love and support for him. At times it’s so incredibly funny, even when it’s sad, that I can only rest my cool glass against my cheek and try not to breathe because if I breathe I might cry, or laugh, at the wrong time.

 

It’s the stuff of millions of people’s lives, trying to make things work, at work and at school and at home, whilst suffering the crippling feelings of chronic depression. And not waving but drowning. We learn about them through mambo. That’s right, The Symptoms of Depression delivered via a SMASH style mambo number. Bryony and Tim dance and hold up pieces of card, with the symptoms written on them in black pen, dazzling their way through fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, sadness, insomnia, guilt and recurrent thoughts of death…faking it ‘til they make it.

 

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Are we not all living like this? Or, have we not, at some stage or another, lived like this? Imagine how many of us must go through life undiagnosed!

 

72% of people treated for depression are female yet

75% of people that take their own lives are male (Men’s Health Forum)

 

 

I woke up one morning and tears just poured out of my face into my pillow. I couldn’t believe what was going on to be honest. I hadn’t cried for years.

 

Segments from a pre-recorded conversation help to paint the picture of the suffering so many couples share. Not all couples speak so candidly though, and the ultimate lesson is in the reminder that we must always find a way to talk about this stuff.

 

I don’t think, no matter how many shows I do, I’ll be a performer to be honest but I’m not here to perform, that’s Bryony’s job. I’m here to be a real life example of depression.

 

 

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If it was any other illness, I’d be on the internet everyday trying to get better but I didn’t because I was too ashamed to even type it in.

 

I agreed to do this show, in this outfit, dancing around with my mental girlfriend just in case I might help someone like myself.

 

Tim, a “non-performer”, has no direct eye contact with the audience until the end of the show (and after it, of course, when we meet the couple. They are exactly as they seem to be. Gorgeous, genuine, humble). Instead, he wears masks: binoculars, white cotton clouds, a goat’s head, a mass of tangled rope. Wearing clouds when the two meet, Bryony believes he is “sent from heaven”. He’s fun and ambitious and enthusiastic and capable of anything. In the latter garb he is a confused mess of feelings, and reminds me of Scarecrow. And you know I’m not talking about Dorothy’s friend. Horrifying.

 

More disturbingly, appearing with a paper bag over his head, Tim displays no feelings whatsoever. In a heartbreaking one-person-pas-de-deux, Bryony manipulates Tim’s limbs to hold her in an embrace beneath his forlorn looking paper bag head. If there is anyone who doesn’t recognise this precise moment of unresponsiveness, either in themselves or in someone they love, they should be grateful for that.

 

If only I would have spoken about it or felt comfortable to talk about it, it would have been prevented I believe at an earlier stage.

 

I haven’t seen a lot of live theatre about mental illness and depression that actually succeeds in making us feel all the feelings. Fake It ‘til You Make It brilliantly uses basic theatrical storytelling devices to give us insight into the specifics of one couple’s battle, as well as hope for everyone’s struggle. The struggle is real.

 

 

Bryony & tim. April 2014 Photo Credit ©Richard Davenport

Bryony & tim. April 2014
Photo Credit ©Richard Davenport

 

 

This is a “work in progress showing” preceding a special festival edition of the production for Latitude festival. I’m wondering what else Bryony and Tim will do with their story, and will it continue to evolve, as a new little person is welcomed into their world? Bryony states matter-of-factly that they will be speaking openly with their child about Tim’s depression and anxiety. And so the conversation continues.

 

 

Have you ever talked to a child about adult depression? Have you ever had to answer tricky questions like, “Why does my dad act the way he does?” and “What’s going on in Mum’s head when she’s not herself?”

 

 

I’m about to trade a few Brisvegas trips for Noosa trips in another week’s time, for Dream Home rehearsals so I may need to listen to something else to get into the ex-model Colette’s head, but lately I’ve been listening to Next To Normal again (watch the whole thing here. Or check out the archived Twitter performance here).

 

Oscar Theatre Co staged a brilliant production of Next To Normal (2013).

 

Anyway, Chris Kellett came with me to see Fake It ‘til You Make It so I asked him to write a little something something from his POV. I’ll add it when I see it. NO PRESSURE, CHRIS.

 

In the meantime, here’s a rehearsal clip from Oscar’s production of Next To Normal because HOPE.

 

 

 

Update. Chris said: I went in cold. I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t know a thing about the play and that’s sorta’ how I like it. If I’d known the subject material, I probably would’ve reacted as many of my friends did to Next To Normal. “Oh, that sounds great…nothing like a real bummer for a great night out!” All I’d heard was, “I hear it’s great”. Brilliant! I thought. I’m in!

 

And then I meet Bryony and Tim – baskets covering their heads – singing a song about how 80% of the patients in the GP waiting room have mental illness (80%!). And I find myself smiling. And thinking. Bryony is an obvious performer, comfortable, strong and confident in front of the crowd. Tim is great too, but you can tell he’s new to this; he’s not comfortable, almost shy. But it works.

 

It begins awkwardly, uncomfortably even, I suppose in the same way that a conversation about mental health always starts, but as the show continues it becomes charming, sincere, sweet and tender. You can’t help but fall a little in love with this wonderful pair.

 

They take us on a short journey. We see how the couple deals with the clinical depression that affects them both, one directly, one indirectly (but is anyone ever indirectly affected by their partner’s illness?). We’re given a window into their private lives and we start to appreciate how their struggle has evolved. One of the highlights of the evening was the “under the doona” song sung by Tim as he played guitar.

 

The story is told with honesty. To me, it almost seemed too honest in parts, with my inner cynic saying, “how much of this is real, and how much are they playing the part for effect?” I couldn’t tell you if what I saw was the honest story of these two people, or a story of two people told honestly. And that’s a win in my book. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel; you might shed a tear, but either way you’ll be touched by this. 

 

 

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Tim and Bryony are beautiful and tender and relatable.

 

 

Through their eyes we see exactly what it’s like to live with someone who suffers from chronic depression and we also gain insight into that chronic depressive state. The courage and transparency of these artists and their original show earns them a heartfelt standing ovation in Brisbane. The overwhelming feeling in the Visy and afterwards, upstairs over drinks with the artists and Artistic Director of Brisbane Powerhouse, Kris Stewart, is one of solidarity and compassion and HOPE. The same tone needs to continue to be adopted in our conversations about anxiety and depression.

 

 

Without the conversation nothing changes, no one speaks out and the silence is deafening.

 

 

 

 

Extracts from the show taken from Natalie Whiting’s interview for ABC Radio

28
Jun
14

The Effect

 

The Effect

QTC & STC

The GreenHouse Bille Brown Studio

June 7 – July 5 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Depression and anxiety are common conditions.

 

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

 

On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

 

Anxiety is the most common mental condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety.

 

Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the year following birth. Almost 1 in 10 women experience antenatal depression, and 1 in 7 in the postnatal period. Anxiety is likely to be as, or more, common.

 

At least six Australians take their own lives every day.

 

Source: beyondblue.org.au

 

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Dee and I have joked about our chemical imbalance; as if it’s a collective thing from which women-who-do-too-much suffer (of course it’s not just the women). When I remember the stats and think of everybody I know I have to wonder…which of us are NOT depressed!?

 

 

Act 1 of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect is upbeat, fun and funny. It doesn’t take long to establish the four characters that tell an amusing and then very moving tale about a highly controversial couple of subjects. Despite everybody being a little too sharply drawn to begin with, it takes just ten minutes for the production to settle and for the characters and their relationships to develop into warm and interesting enough stories. And I love getting not-quite-the-full-story. There is much to establish in the first act – the participants of a clinical drug trial, the trial itself, the clinicians, and the premise – can happiness (and depression) be attributed to an altered chemical state in the brain?

 

By the end of the production there are almost two plays at work, which seems to be a sign (or symptom) of new work. I wish I’d written enough to tell you that from personal experience, but it’s only through seeing the work of other new playwrights that I can safely say we’ve seen before, two tales in one.

 

Act 2 takes a (not entirely unexpectedly intense) turn, challenging us to consider more seriously our choices and the ensuing consequences. It balances dangerously between conversational and preachy tone, with an extended scene between the medical professionals almost giving us too much of the debate, and repetitively so. I notice myself beginning to turn off, tune out and think, “So when is the pedophile thing going to come up? (This is not my spoiler. It’s within a quote in Prebbles’s bio. This marks the first time ever I wish I hadn’t read the program notes before seeing the play). The debate itself is an oldie but a goodie: do we medicate for depression or not? If not, why not? Can we heal ourselves of the epidemic sadness sweeping the world? You could get depressed just thinking about it! Or you could come up with, let’s say, a lucrative online project and collaborate with a popular stationary line. Yes, of course I have the books!

 

 

The space is glossy; so glossy it’s highly reflective and we see ourselves in the sterile black walls. White floors are harsh, cold, and blue shiny chairs offer a false sense of security and a superficial level of calm around the edges. Cruel fluro light is emitted from above and a light box dance floor features below. I’d love to put it into my kitchen (we’ve always danced in the kitchen). But more on lighting later.

 

Eugene Gilfedder, in one of his strongest roles to date, gets the balance just right. He’s the once flirtatious, now serious, always ambitious professional medic turned motivational speaker, Toby (a phone call away from a TED Talk!), and he makes a good case for the sensitive, older, Noah style long-term love interest. If you ever picked up the sequel to The Notebook (no, it’s not a film; you’ll have to read the book), it’s to that Noah I refer, the Noah who quietly, persistently and courageously conspires to reignite his wife’s love for him after many years of a “happy” marriage.

 

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Toby’s foil is Dr James (Angie Milliken), who has endured childhood abuse and feels as if her old flame has done her a rather ironic favour by putting her in charge of the clinical trial of a new super anti-depressant. Her story, I think, is the second tale told and could be more sensitively treated under its own title.

 

Anna McGahan (always gorgeous to see her on stage) and Mark Leonard Winter (bringing gorgeous, lively new energy to this stage) are the unlikely punters who enter into an agreement with the imagined pharmaceutical company Raushen to trial for four weeks, a so-called happiness drug. Winter’s character, Tristan, has done this before – the money the drug companies pay him per trial allows him to travel the world – but for McGahan’s character, Connie, this is the first time, perhaps as some sort of escape or respite. But who is actually on the drug and who is given a placebo or some other concoction? How do we know if the emotions are real or merely the side effects of the drug? And if everybody is happy, in love, does it even matter?

 

What price happiness?

 

The relationship between Connie and Tristan comes across as a warm, immediate and very genuine thing, despite its corny start in the waiting room of the facility they share for the duration of the trial. It’s actually every girl’s worst waiting room nightmare, trapped in a small public space with a random trying to crack onto her. But love – or the effect of the drug – brings them together and we enjoy some lovely early dialogue to establish the attraction and later, a choreographed sex scene that depends as much on its lighting states as its posturing.

 

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These two handle it well and the scene becomes very cinematic, beautifully so, but it’s still so strange to watch even a slightly dressed sex scene, isn’t it!? I know, I know, what do you do? It kinda’ works!

 

Much of the effect of the drama can be attributed to Sarah Goodes’ astute direction and the collaboration with lighting designer, Ben Hughes, who creates with Designer Renee Mulder, a dream-like version of a hospital nightclub. It exists somewhere between a mental asylum and a sci-fi galaxy government headquarters, ideal in this studio space, especially after relaxing pre-show in the gorgeous, cosy new library area of The GreenHouse. Guy Webster’s soundscape keeps us in a perpetual state of nothingness, or as I like to think, openness, and I love it and loathe it, like Camille’s album. It’s fascinating that not everybody hears it – Dee didn’t until I mentioned it – it’s that inner ear vibration that exists behind everything else and if it’s the wrong pitch (for you) it might override everything else and become seriously irritating. There are times when I blame it for the onset of a migraine, but not this time.

 

As much as I love the fun and vibe (and Veuve) of opening nights, I don’t mind seeing a production a week or so into its run, when all the elements have settled and the actors are well and truly back into storytelling mode, rather than, “Aargh! It’s opening night!” mode. You have until July 5 to catch The Effect before it heads to Sydney and you should, not just for the challenging conversation it will spark during the days following but also, for the private thoughts conjured as you catch yourself in the mirror it holds up to each and every one of us.