Fringe Review: Mental as Everything

Every day, the seemingly relentless dogma of social opinion strives to diminish the capacity of those that suffer mental health. Here is a show presented by seasoned performers Damon Smith and Adam Coad, that serves to dispels the contrived myths, and through sheer talent, humility and vulnerability two people come together to entertain, inform and challenge the audience. I enjoyed the pastiche of music and story telling that painted a raw, honest and at times humorous view of what it is like to suffer OCD and Anxiety.

Coming together, both Damon and Adam took us through a short confronting sad-happy journey of OCD, depression, anxiety and Bi-polar. They regaled us with original and popular songs, playing with our emotions. Up one minute with “Don’t worry be happy” by Bobby McFerrin, to the more insightful “Mad World” by Tears for Fears. The music was queued and matched perfectly, interjected with an informational monologue or what may have been well timed improv. Both performers drew on their deep understanding and experience of what it is like to interface with a somewhat uncompromising world. This added authenticity to the show while demonstrating an uplifting vulnerability that not all is lost, and it is quite possible to create, grow and live under such trying challenges that skewed mental health delivers.

As the show opened we soon discovered Adam was reluctant to get on stage. This deftly illustrated anxieties constant dark grab for attention, stealing confidence and breeding fear. To Adam’s enormous credit, reluctantly he made his way to the drums. Through a sometimes shaky vocal or a miscued beat it simply reinforced how hard he was working to manage his fear. His soulful, well written rendition of “She drags my heals” hit a deep cord, receiving robust applause from the audience.

We know we shouldn’t laugh at OCD or any other mental health issue, but it can lead to humorous moments when dealing with such compelling and complex systems of thinking. For instance, Damon Smith took us thought the intricacies of a simple routine of putting on shoes. His routine requires repetitive sets of “three, seven or twelve” to get anything right – or he cannot move on and becomes stuck. Throughout the show Damon demonstrated a quiet yet determined desire to fulfil his self-made obligation of getting a simple message about OCD across. He did this all while mastering the piano, occasionally breaking out a secretly troublesome guitar and acting as master of ceremonies.

Overall, I simply enjoyed this brilliant show. It was honest and raw while making direct points on the significant challenges of mental health issues – all done through well-choreographed song, music, lighting, all thrown into a pot with lived experience and stirred until the performers created something that made sense and truth. Damon finished the wonderful show with a simple message, something he clearly demonstrated in the performance – “Find something in life that makes you happy”.

 

4/5 stars

 

Review by Stephen Amey

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