Home » Reviews » Drama » Mental, Assembly Roxy – Review
Credit: Lucas Smith
Credit: Lucas Smith

Mental, Assembly Roxy – Review

Pros: Excellent songs, use of sound clips and lights make this play stand out. Kane Power is a confident performer who balances the light and shade of the piece.

Cons: As the volume is turned up to 11, the lights are flashing and Kane’s mother leaves upsetting voicemail messages, sensitive viewers may struggle to watch.

Pros: Excellent songs, use of sound clips and lights make this play stand out. Kane Power is a confident performer who balances the light and shade of the piece. Cons: As the volume is turned up to 11, the lights are flashing and Kane’s mother leaves upsetting voicemail messages, sensitive viewers may struggle to watch. Early on in Mental, there’s a disclosure from the man behind it: ‘This show will fail – how can I capture my mum’s experience?’. Kane Power sums up his sensitivity to his mother’s bipolar diagnosis, and the very individual experience of each bipolar sufferer.…

Summary

Rating

Unmissable

An engaging and unique dramatisation of caring for someone with bipolar, set to deeply personal music. You’ll leave with a lump in your throat.

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Early on in Mental, there’s a disclosure from the man behind it: ‘This show will fail – how can I capture my mum’s experience?’. Kane Power sums up his sensitivity to his mother’s bipolar diagnosis, and the very individual experience of each bipolar sufferer. He cannot live inside her head, or take her pain away. However, this show is the most insightful mental health piece I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. Kane’s close relationship with his mum, Kim, and his emotional intelligence, mean he can convey her 21 years’ of hospital assessments, manic and depressive periods and occasional section orders, with perfect clarity. He uses a light-filled grid to depict ‘normal’ and ‘bipolar’ mood fluctuation, then gradually pins photos and documents to the grid as he unpacks Kim’s story from the boxes on the stage.

Not only that, but he sets everything to his own music, which sits somewhere between Antony and the Johnsons and John Frusciante, using a loop pedal, keyboard and synthesizer. ‘There’s only 10 on the volume, but you hear it at 11’, he explains, as the music gets louder and more frenetic. At times, the volume is almost disturbing; you can feel the music through your whole body, and the multi-part harmonies blend or clash with speech extracts from Kim’s voicemails, the technical specifics of her diagnosis, and reports from her psychiatrist. Some excerpts will leave you choked up, as Kim’s psychosis leads to paranoia. She thinks her son hates her, and her parents want to take Kane away. She believes her sister faked her own death. Descriptions of medication side-effects are upsetting, too, but Power turns them into a rap, describing ‘the order of the mental disorder chemically ordered to order’.

There are some bittersweet laughs, too, as Power doesn’t take himself too seriously. Though the piece depicts Kim’s experience, it’s also about being a carer. As Power says, if 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue, then 3 in 4 of us will potentially be carers. He doesn’t know what a ‘normal’ childhood is like, because this was his normality.

Mental is a rich, thorough study of bipolar and caring; a love letter to a mother, driven by Power’s talent for performance. He is a credit to Kim, and I hope she is proud of what he’s achieved.

Authors: Kim Power, Kane Power, Alice Lamb, and Tid
Director: Tid
Musical Director: Peter R. Reynolds
Composer and Lyricist: Kane Power
Producer: Hannah Osborne
Box Office: 0131 623 3030
Booking Link: https://www.assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/mental
Booking Until: 27 August 2017

About Polly Allen

Polly Allen
Polly Allen is a freelance lifestyle journalist based in Sussex, but often found in London. Her earliest memory of theatre was a Postman Pat stage show; she's since progressed to enjoying drama, comedy and musicals without children's TV themes. Her favourite plays include Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, and A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood.