Review: The Perceptionalist

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By Louise Pascale

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This review was written for mindshare, a creative community and online mental health publication. Reflections are by mindshare writers with lived experience of mental illness and / or mental health awareness promotion, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.

In a suburban town hall I walk in to The Persceptionalist wondering if I’m here for Fringe Show or a Powerpoint presentation. With no set dressing or staging, we all sit waiting in anticipation for a show that promises to move us “into a mindful, entertaining, memorable and explosive adventure through the perceptions we create of ourselves and others.”

I’m here reviewing it because our Perceptionalist David Ferrier has identified this show has mental health themes. Starting with a group meditation I’m feeling assured, but then while we are meditating David breaks out in an acoustic short rendition of Gnarls Barkley Crazy. You know the one, it starts with “I remember when, I remember when, I remember when I lost my mind……(insert rest of verse here – then chorus) Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy? Possibly.”

Knowing part of the brief of this review is to question how shows are either helping or hindering our understanding of mental health, my first red flag was up. Crazy, hmmm it’s not a word we like to use in this space. It carries negative perceptions, and isn’t this what we are here to change?

Now before I go much further, David makes it clear in his introduction, “If you’re trying to work out if I’m full of it – I am.” He also goes on to say later in this show, “I love being wrong.” So I write the rest of this review with a belief David would be open to these reflections.

So back to the show, the first fifteen minutes David shares his story to how he came here and this is tens of thousands of hours of self development for a show that is for post 2020. David is blunt, to the point and self aware when sharing his story.

But you are not going to quietly sit there and be told this information, no, and before you know it we are on our feet shouting, “I’m going to fully participate.” Pushing us out of our comfort zone David has us screaming and moving about in an evangelical attempt to change our behaviour and make us live a happy and fulfilled life.

And that is when my second red flag went up. It was at this point I realised that no matter what self development I had done, where I was at emotionally or mentally David has made an assumption that I am broken and need fixing. The talk – and shouting – moves to a presumption we give out negative perceptions and are unaware of our own behaviour.

Apparently we all have an internal stupid monkey that is sabotaging our life, they are full of negative talk impacting on our wellbeing and happiness. David outrightly said to his audience in this context that; “the way you communicate with yourself is mental illness.”

Yes, that’s right. It’s not a chemical imbalance in the brain, it’s the way you talk to yourself.

Red flag number three and I wanted to get up and leave. But I was trapped in a suburban town hall with a group of people who could quite rightly be having a life changing moment. What was so sad about that, was they were being told ideas about mental illness that perpetuate misunderstandings.

The Perceptionalist is a Fringe show for those looking for some self help. It’s not the kind of self help we would necessarily advocate but we know there is not one fit for all when it comes to this. I think the description for the show should be more clear that this is about changing who you are, if you are dissatisfied with your life and who you are. I don’t think this show is for our audience, or anyone going through their own personal development. However I would not discard David’s passion to create a positive change, but I do think there are elements in what he does that could be better informed by language and mental health awareness.

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