FRINGE REVIEW – Shhhh!

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By Megan Doherty

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“Shhh” is a captivating exploration of intergenerational experiences with postnatal depression, featuring a masterful performance by Lisa Brickell (also the playwright) and Siri Embla. Brickell’s background in clowning and commedia dell’arte shines through as she seamlessly embodies multiple characters across generations, aided by minimal props and costume changes. Embla’s live piano accompaniment and versatile acting enrich the narrative, though the promised hilarity falls short.

The play’s core objective is to destigmatise mental health issues, particularly postnatal depression, through a blend of humour and poignant storytelling. While not uproariously funny as advertised, it remains emotionally resonant. However, the abruptness of Tina’s recovery may leave some viewers wanting a more detailed exploration of the healing process.

The incorporation of historical medical records effectively underscores shifting attitudes towards postpartum depression over time, shedding light on outdated treatments while refraining from dwelling on their negativity. Tina and her forebears are portrayed as resilient individuals failed by societal misconceptions, sparking audience empathy and internal reflection.

Informed by Brickell’s personal experiences, along with extensive research into historical medical records from Australian mental health hospitals contributed by Diana Jefferies of Western Sydney University, “Shhh” offers a nuanced portrayal of four generations of women grappling with postnatal depression. The universality of their stories renders the message accessible, complemented by provided resources for those in need.

The title’s dual meaning, symbolised by the recurring song “Mockingbird,” cleverly encapsulates the silence surrounding postnatal depression experiences. However, technical issues, including late starts and poor acoustics at the venue, occasionally detract from the immersive experience, hindering comprehension of dialogue. Having only one of the two performers amplified is inexplicable.

Nonetheless, “Shhh” stands as a poignant testament to resilience and the enduring impact of mental health struggles across generations. The play’s sincerity and thematic relevance make it a compelling contribution to the discourse on postnatal depression and broader mental health discussions.

4 Stars

To book tickets for this show go here.

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