Review: Sincerely Survivor
By Alicia Sullivan
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mindshare is a creative community and online mental health publication. Reflections are by mindshare writers with lived experience of mental illness, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.
When Sincerely Survivor started, I was unsure what to expect. I have never watched interpretative dance before and was not sure if it would engage me. But, after the first minutes, I was hooked. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the performance. And the story they were trying to reverberate, resonated with me. Especially the line, “when you are hospitalised with mental illness, no one sends you flowers.”
Sincerely Survivor sets their show as a visual letter to family, friends, strangers and ourselves. Using spoken words, spoken news clips and interpretive dance to get their message across about mental illness and the failures of the mental health system. And the need for advocacy for people dealing with their mental health.
Hannah Friebel is the creator, writer-producer, director and one of the dancers in this production, showing how talented and passionate Hannah is about mental health and a desire to fix the system and fight stigma. This production is an extension of her own experiences with mental health, the Victoria Mental system, and how isolating it is.
With the performance being pre-recorded, Hannah started off with an introduction video about the show and its mental health themes. She spoke about Sincerely Survivor as if she were a proud parent excited to show her baby to the Adelaide Fringe. You could tell how much this production meant to her. And her conviction that the arts are important when it comes to mental health advocacy. This belief was littered throughout the whole show.
Once the introduction was finished, the actual production started with a small clip of a lady walking along a wall outside. Then cut to a clip of an empty corridor within an asylum for the criminally insane. One by one, the dancers would walk out of their rooms to dance. Being free of their rooms to express themselves and the hopelessness they feel.
The whole show was filmed in either a criminally insane asylum, lunatic asylum or a mental hospital — with different scenes shot in different rooms within these places. This gave the show a greater impact on how isolating a mental illness is, the stigma of having a mental illness, and the feeling of being made to feel like a criminal — when in fact, you are the victim. Being filmed within those confines gave the show more of a punch. It made you take note of the message they were trying to convey: that sometimes the mental health system is worse than the illness.
This is a powerful, raw, and personal production that makes you think and encourages you to advocate for mental illness. I was awe struck and it evoked strong emotions. I left thinking that the Sincerely Survivor creators won’t stop advocating through art, and that this is a truly positive thing. I give this show five stars.