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Having reviewed her son’s show, Susan Belperio asked if I’d review her photography exhibition, Under the Lens, currently on display at the same venue, The Lab, Queen’s Theatre.

A former medical practitioner and in addition to here, Susan’s work has been displayed in Queensland and the Northern Territory; she also had an image in a human rights exhibition in Tibet opened by the Dalai Lama.

For me, the exhibition comprises three parts, beginning with a stunning black and white photo of Josh either dressing or undressing for his show (it’s the voyeur’s choice), revealing the eight-inch scar travelling his skin. It’s an intimate scene, one of a mother portraying the glittering remnant of her son’s near-death experience.

In the cluster of black and white images that follow, hands and feet feature, snapshots of movement stilled. Two pairs of feet dangle carefreely from a balcony overlooking the beach. A pair of hands are clasped on a lap, the red painted nails the only colour calling. A circle of polished feet appears as if talking and a child’s hands are being introduced to the piano. Interspersed with images of the moon, birds, roads and the sea, they denote a journey well-travelled, be it flying, driving or sailing, elements that lead neatly into the final part.

The colour series is called Life’s a Beach, in which Susan conveys the multi-faceted sea, what it can give and take away. It’s a colour spangled dreamscape with each image expertly placed to both singularly shine and complement its neighbours. Humans are juxtaposed with the man-made and wild – the shadow of a plane over water, a lone feather, a child’s spade in the shallows, the ripples and twists found in the sand and sky. The sea dons day and night, carries time effortlessly, simultaneously evoking a distant longing and home.

Susan has an incredible ability to capture the everyday in a way that is not, to present indelible moments, to stop and embrace life. The exhibition, which is free to view, only runs until 17 March as part of the Fringe, so if you’d like to immerse yourself in some hauntingly beautiful images, I highly recommend a visit.

So I went to review my second Fringe show Friday night for mindshareScarred for Life at The Lab, Queen’s Theatre.

With the headline Man falls off bike, becomes star, Josh Belperio relays the time he flew over the handlebars of his bicycle, ruptured his spleen and nearly bled to death through a series of comical and clever songs on the piano, reminiscent of Tim Minchin.

Josh began by taking us back to when he was little, where he was held back in ‘fun skills’ because of his slight touch of autism, before finding his place at the piano and then falling from it (literally), which won him $500 in Australia’s Funniest Home Videos courtesy of his mum filming it. His first scar came at 15 from running through a plate glass door, severing the tendon and artery, with thankfully no nerve damage.

The day of his accident he was anxious and rushing to the Festival Theatre to workshop ‘The Unmentionable Musical’ as he calls it, approached a roundabout too fast, as did a car from his right. He slammed on his brakes. The bike stopped, he didn’t. And as he gets to his feet he feels strange, as if his body’s trying to process something, all this to terse music.

At home his parents (both doctors) put him to bed and monitor him, until Josh wakes feeling strange again. His mother takes one look at him and rushes him to hospital, not before Josh collapses and asks his boyfriend Matthew am I dying? A CT scan reveals a ruptured spleen, which requires immediate surgery and as the mask comes down, all Josh can think of is all the music he has left to write.

Having lost 2 litres of blood, Josh is transferred to ICU, which is the title of a highly entertaining song through the eyes of the ICU nurse, followed by ‘Sample pack of information for families of deceased patients – spare copies’ where Josh summarises each pamphlet inside. My favourite song was ‘Watching me pee into a bottle’, a tender exchange between Josh and Matthew, in which love and affection grows like my urinal collection.

Towards the end Josh reveals his eight-inch medical marvel (his scar), an angry looking welt, which he thinks ugly, but to Matthew it’s beautiful because it represents how his life was saved. The mental health aspect of the show is anxiety and how Josh manages it – present before his accident and escalating after – to enable him to live the life he wants, to not be scared, to make peace with his scar and most importantly, to get back on his bike. Josh is a talented artist, and gave a funny and moving performance through theatrical song. It’s a show I’d recommend.

As a Fringe reviewer of shows with a mental health theme for mindshare, I went along to my first one Monday night; It’s Not Easy Being Green, a cabaret at the Chateaux Apollo.

Written and performed by Karen Lee Roberts accompanied by Mr Sunshine (aka Jeff Usher) on keys, it was an insight into a struggle with mental wellness (not illness) via a series of scenes, opening with Christmas Eve where everything was unravelling. Karen, in character, compared her state of mind to algae – green and always on edge, waiting to be devoured by something bigger – and talked about how depression is still taboo, asking can’t people bear to hear the truth??

Each scene explored acceptable conversation versus reality – the dinner party where she declared the food far better than what she’d received in hospital when mentally unstable; the photos of her wedding in which professionals expertly covered her self-harming scars; and the change in her behaviour when she came off her meds, the dark places she visited trapped by her myriads of faults and flaws.

And each snapshot was framed in song – ‘Problem solver’ and ‘Chameleon’ to name a few, the latter advising to keep your skin, don’t rearrange, a poignant message. Karen had an amazing voice pitched with feeling, all songs self-written to be made into a CD shortly. Then my husband became part of the show being invited on stage to play Daniel, the guy she’d met on Tinder, an amusing interlude to say the least!

The hour offered a raw, honest account of a person stripped bare – juggling demons, meds and their inevitable side effects with healthy eating, exercise and positive action – and revisited the Christmas Eve scene, a clever bookend, where the tree in the distance no longer represented something to hang from, but life itself.

I’m not a big fan of cabaret, so this wasn’t a show I chose to review, but because of its ability to leap beyond comfy mental health, I’m glad I did. Unfortunately the last performance was yesterday (it ran for three nights only), but if it returns next year I’d recommend the experience. Until then I’ll leave you with the closing line – it’s not easy being green, but it’s better than being blue.     

Sunday evening was a divine mixture of fine food and company, as we devoured a three-course meal and the words of five Adelaide-based poets and novelists who shared a series of water-themed readings.

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Held in Sarah’s Sustainable Café in Semaphore as part of Adelaide’s Fringe-frenzy month, the line-up was impressive – Ray Tyndale, Mag Merrilees, Rachael Mead, Heather Taylor Johnson and Alison Flett – and Stuart Gifford, and his partner and co-chef Marian Prosser, did an amazing job of hosting and feeding!

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Ray was first up, a local poet living by the sea in Semaphore who writes a poem a day (impressive). Ray opened her set with a poem called ‘Dolphins’ written last July, describing how a mother and baby were ‘turning and surging in the shallows’, an image you could so clearly see.  Next up was a poem called ‘Menace’ where the sea ‘claims at least one to itself each year’ followed by ‘The kite-surfer’ where it ‘erupted into white horses’.  In ‘Winter on Semaphore beach’, there is ‘half a rainbow, a brilliant half’ and in ‘Blue seaweed’ ‘magic happened’.  Ray read well, was both warm and engaging, her work painting a picture of everyday events we could all relate to, as well as making reference to the highly variable temperatures in our state when ‘thunder rumbled like an upset stomach’.

Just before the main course was served, Mag started by explaining how she is primarily a novelist who dips into poetry. Mag began with an old poem, ‘The whales’, written 25 years ago about the time when these glorious mammals came back into Encounter Bay, watching as they were ‘rocked weightless by the waves’.  Next up was a poem about Kangaroo Island where she was ‘drawn homeward by moonlight’ followed by another short piece, ‘Flotsam’, which she later learnt was a Haibu (Haiku embedded in prose).  Mag’s last share was ‘Sea ground stones’, a much longer piece, both interesting and entertaining, which opened with the line ‘letters from my sister start mid-thought’ and then went onto explain Mag’s ‘digestion song’, and how she plans ‘to meet every pebble on the beach’ referring to them as ‘crumbs of mountain’.

Rachael was up next who confessed she had to trawl through the archives living in the hills, so began with a poem about a beach walk she took to calm down after a rather irritating visitor had left, where she ‘was the only one with untamed hair and sneakers’ and ‘the idea of day makes the hills blush’. Rachael then read a series of sonnets about her encounter with a great white shark while cage diving in Port Lincoln (on our to do list!) from her new chapbook, The Quiet Blue World and Other Poems, published by Garron Publishing and having heard them before, they were just as stunning.  ‘In the kayak’ followed, a very atmospheric piece likening the paddles to cutlery which ‘feast on platelets of silence’ and in ‘After crossing the bridge the first time’ to Hindmarsh Island, ‘an ant crawls across the page like punctuation gone wild’.  Rachael finished with a poem called ‘Lost on the coast road’ ‘in a car like a metaphor gone wrong’ through ‘a tangle of stars and streetlights’.

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As we were tucking into a delicious dessert, Heather began reading an excerpt from her new novel due out next year from University of Queensland Press, which focuses on a character called Jean Harley who is either dead or in a coma (Heather’s own words!). The passage was from a chapter called ‘The house of noise’ from the viewpoint of the mother-in-law Marion, who describes her daughter-in-law as ‘a sunken body in white sheets’ and tells of her own secret battle with cancer where ‘she lived on a lake, but today it sounded like an ocean’.  On a trip to West Beach with her son Stan and grandson Orion, Marion has a rare moment of contact with the former when ‘she cherished the linger, felt safe she could melt’ and then of Orion, ‘his smile as vast as the shoreline’.  The next passage was from the chapter ‘Very Viv’, where Viv is beach walking during that time of the month when ‘her uterus is emptying itself’ as she contemplates her affair with a professor who had had a fling with Jean before she married Stan.  What Heather shared was enough to make me want to buy the book and read more!  Heather finished with the poem ‘Gearing up’ about Adelaide’s Fringe season from her collection Thirsting for Lemonade published by Interactive Press, just perfect.

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Alison rounded off the readings who, having been in Australia now for five years from Scotland and a former resident poet in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens, began with a poem called ‘First creek’ in the shape of a creek on a scroll of paper. With ‘surfaces reflecting scraps of sky’, water that ‘petered into pools and puddles’ and the ‘sun repeatedly paddle-beating my skull’, we were there with Alison on her journey.  The creek is compared with her sweat and the water at lunch, as she notes how ‘magpies look the same but make the strangest of noises’ and what is brilliantly referred to as the ‘disappointment of crows’ (so true!).  Alison then read ‘Pittance’, a poem that talks of the primeval presence trailing them, the animal they once were, followed by ‘Five ways to hear the ocean’ which was just that.  Alison finished with a poem I’ve heard her read before and just love, ‘The map of belonging’, which will form part of the new collection she’s working on funded by an Arts SA grant, ‘where home is a paper folded and torn’ and ‘you find yourself landless’, beautiful.

And there endeth a wonderful evening! A fantastic experience I was thrilled to be a part of.  And if you’re ever in Semaphore check out the cafe, it’s well worth a visit.

This was the name of an Adelaide Fringe show we saw last night. And quite possibly the best one we’ve seen.

It is, in essence, the love story of Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn, with the central protagonist depression, a mental illness suffered by Tim, which unbelievably can still be taboo today.

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It begins with how they met, moved in together and then Bryony’s discovery of Tim’s medication hidden in a rucksack. And then everything unravels – the story, the set and the couple – as they act out the effect Tim’s illness has on them both. Throughout the performance we hear snippets of recording as Tim explains his seemingly benign childhood, when and how his behaviour changed and the impact it had, culminating in a breakdown at the dinner table one night and his mother sending him off to the doctors. Tim is quickly prescribed anti-depressants with little information, let alone anything about the side effects they will have, and remains on these for six years, covertly, before meeting Bryony.

It was a powerful performance, punctuated with humour, dance, song, interesting head wear and the kind of raw emotion rarely seen these days because it was real, it was happening and it is there. And this rawness connected the audience, an almost tangible sense of acceptance and understanding because let’s face it, depression is not something most people can, like or will talk about – it’s best kept in a box. Open it we say.

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