Until 27th August (5:05pm)
Mental is a one-man show, performed by Kane Power, based on his experiences growing up with a mother with bipolar disorder. Whilst a one-man show might seem a surprising choice for Lady Parts, his mother, Kim helped write the show, and was present in every element of it, apart from physically being on stage. This was one of the performance’s real strengths – that it evoked such a sense of her. It included answerphone messages left by her, photos from various stages in her life, extracts from her case notes and diagnoses, and her own explanations for how she experiences bipolar disorder.
Mental charts the progression of the disorder through a mixture of song and monologue. Through use of a loop pedal, various incidents and diagnoses are layered and altered. The staging is innovative, with a graph plotted with lights to indicate the peaks and troughs of bipolar, and the peaks and troughs within a healthy range. As more information is revealed, it is added to the graph, a clear illustrative progression and way of charting a life.
For me, the show was strongest when it evoked the small details that made the whole. Kim’s obsessive wordplay, her description of her disease as ‘dis-ease’, that she was prescribed ‘Quitine’, so she quit, is engaging and sharp and evokes the intensity of everyday stimulus when experienced in a manic phase. There was intelligent comment, that in some cultures speaking in tongues would have made Kim a shaman, but to the two boys she was driving fast down the motorway, this didn’t much matter. The performance was unflinching and at it’s best where the narrative was at its most raw and displayed most vulnerability.
Despite these obvious strengths, the performance didn’t always land well for me. At times the performance seemed uncertain of what it was – the clear mandate to tell a personal story seemed to have eclipsed some decisions on format. Whilst, at times this was successful with disorientating layering of loop pedals, at others it verged a little close to a lecture. Some of the lengthier loop pedal segments didn’t hold my attention for the duration, once the format had been established the use of the technique didn’t seem to move forward.
The ending was very moving, and there is no doubt this is a powerful method of expression for an exciting performer. There were moments of brilliance, but for me it just didn’t meld together into a cohesive whole. That there was a collection for Mind outside was another great gesture and I hope the audience have been digging deep.
Mental is at the Assembly Roxy until 27th August at 5:05pm. Tickets and more information can be found here.