Review: The Thought That Counts

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By Louise Pascale

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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 and / or mental health awareness promotion, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.

It’s hard to write a review about The Thought That Counts without giving away the ending but I will try. 

The Thought That Counts is an interactive game set up with 90s themed gaming in a bespoke tent within Black Box Theatre. In our little corner sits 6 audience members, who you may or may not know and who will have to make decisions with you in this choose-your-own-adventure narrative.

As a participant, you have two versions to choose from – adult or child. With a 12-year-old in tow, we played the children’s version. I was told the only difference between the two is language so I anticipate some fruitier expressions in the adult version. While you have to choose where this story goes with other, likely, complete strangers we use the ‘majority’ rules deduction of options as we are led through a day in the life of a character I can only visually describe as a guy in a pink bunny ninja suit.

While playing with strangers may be tricky to navigate we did have a host who not only led us through the game, but also gave a reassuring talk at the end.

As we skip through a day in life we are given a question and three answers to choose from. At the beginning we are making light-hearted choices around eating burritos and strawberries or making friends with pigs and big-toothed bunnies. We’re making friends, enjoying the sunshine and spending time with our thoughts until things take a turn and our thoughts become darker and darker. As the tone changes, it soon becomes hard to resist heavy themes, with only dark choices available. At this point I was missing choosing between eating strawberries or lying in the sun – life was so much simpler then.

So despite your own desire for wanting some positive choices, like a spiral into darkness you realise in this game there are none. The Thought That Counts is a great way of showing the despair and loneliness that can lead to self-harm. Like a depressed brain’s neural pathways, you are forced to journey to negative places for want of other options. 

However it does not leave you there. The show ends with a sense of hope and awareness that sometimes it is just our thoughts creating the darkness of a situation, and reality has more to offer.

While this explanation seems simple on the surface this is a multi-layered journey our creator has taken us on. From early on we see messages around anxiety, loneliness and despair but they are subtle and small, only obvious to keen observers like myself. And it doesn’t stop there, some choices are around God solving our little light-hearted problems which on reflection had me wondering if there was a message around how some use religion for their mental health.

On the face of it, The Thought That Counts reads as a light hearted game – yet it is far from it. This really was a surprise and I highly recommend it. It is worth spending 15 minutes on as part of your Fringe experience. If I was to give any criticism, it would be that it should come with a trigger warning and even the Lifeline number at the end.

Five stars. 

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