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My second Fringe show to review was Mickey D: CAN DO! at The Little Sparrow in Masonic Lodge, Gluttony’s new venue this year.

Deemed “a show with attitude, about attitude”, Mickey began by laying down some ground rules in his bandit basement comedy – there are no rules and we’re just here to laugh. A good start.

An advert for Cotton On in his “tropical dad shirt” and chequered socks (all about the finish line!), Mickey discusses the various greetings with accents using the obligatory how do you feel? replying with that’s why we have you ladies as men (some, most, all?) are construed as empty vessels when it comes to emotion.

His wife’s name is Beth, aka Boss, who is British so unaccustomed to how cold it can get here:

Beth – Can we turn the heating on?

Mickey – Heating?! We don’t have any heating! Heating fucked off in March!!

Beth is apparently 6 ft 8 and so rather than spooning, Mickey says she ladles him; he could be there for months. Mickey talks about his kids – his daughter whose accent is half Adelaidean, half Brummie so jokes they’re hanging out for a disability benefit and his son, who just sits there all day, staring, doesn’t do anything as Mickey snaps his fingers trying to get his attention, later revealing he’s only 10 months old.

When Mickey argues with his wife, he knows he’ll never win so simply relocates, however you ladies have freaky hearing and even then, she can detect his muffled words when he’s in his shed, head zipped into an empty golf bag. Beth’s nickname is Wolf – my wife will eat your wife! – then things turn serious (?) when Mickey shares that she helped him beat drugs, gambling and alcohol 15 years ago.

Mickey talks about ice, how he got tired of it when he found himself doing a tour of someone else’s home and confronting a “sharkie” in an On the Run at two in the morning (buying cheese Twisties for his daughter’s lunch) who asks him what the fuck you looking at? to which Mickey tells us, now I love a quiz. And then we hear the best heckle ever. Mickey explains how he went to the Middle East to gig for the troops there when an audience member mutters haven’t they been through enough?! A brilliant come back, flooring us all, including Mickey!

After closing the show with the words of his ex-girlfriend I’m leaving you now, Mickey then treats us to a bonus outside on the steps, incorporating passers-by and even the trams.

Underneath the joking, piss-taking and bravado there are pertinent messages – try anything once, take every opportunity, but most of all, have fun, something which can be increasingly difficult in today’s shock-cultured world. At this venue, it’s a sold-out show, but if you want some laughs elsewhere and are not easily offended, I’d recommend it.

As a Fringe reviewer of mental health-themed shows for mindshare, my first was Whiplash last night at the National Wine Centre.

Opening with You know the story; it starts with a date, Scott Wings invites us on his self-exploration, literally, as his heart abandons him on a date, apt for Valentine’s Day. A clever mix of physicality and poetry, there’s some stunning imagery, as Scott relays:

In darkness my heart packs its bags. The streets are all clots. There, an old thought begs for change.

Heart is a person, has a mind of its own, leaves the taxi in iambic pentameter mimicked by Scott. And so he goes inside himself to search for heart while on the date, chats with the café proprietor of his stomach, past his appendix, an old lego brick he swallowed years ago, skillfully personifying each body part. He checks his spine, which asks the cliched have you checked out your sleeve lately? and then dick interferes with a romantic brush of hands as they reach for their wine.

He goes to his tailbone to mess with the monkeys there, encounters the brain ship with its powerful, all-knowing presence, eventually reaching his shoulder blade on which he sits, feet dangling, to watch the date unfold. There’s a tree in his collarbone where he encounters himself at different ages – 16, 18, 25, 28, etc. – masturbating to porn, smoking a bong, until a fight breaks out, with his 30-year-old self shouting none of you fuckers have ever done any of your taxes! And when the wine sloshes down, his discomfort increases as he desperately tries to find something to say.

Scott’s array of emotions and energy is boundless, as he takes us through an evolutionary dance, encouraging audience participation, starting with one cell, which multiplies, becomes a worm, which sprouts legs, becomes a lizard and so on, until the brain ship looms large.

I found this concept particularly fascinating, as Scott’s headspace gets re-arranged with spider-like hands shifting thoughts, questions, worries, culminating in when will anyone prioritise me…?

All this time he’s still on the date until, when it comes to goodbye, she says:

Your stories are great and thanks for sharing, but you didn’t ask me a single question all night

causing his brain to fight with his heart, now returned. The ending is poignant – his six-year-old self appears with a flower and places it where his heart is; together they watch it bloom.

It was an incredible show, up there with some of the best we’ve seen at the Fringe and we’ve seen many. With fundamental themes of self-doubt and anxiety, ingeniously expressed through theatrical gestures and words back-grounded with music and mood lighting, it has something for everyone, go see.

5-stars

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.     

Just want to share an insightful post by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis, in which she shares some thoughts and poems on mental health (one of which I penned myself)

World Mental Health Day in Poetry

 

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this is an initiative led by Mental Health Australia to challenge the perception of mental health issues and encourage us all to view them in a positive light, in a bid to reduce stigma and enable more people to seek support.

 

 

Mental Health Australia aims to:

promote mentally healthy communities, educate Australians on mental health issues, conduct research into mental health and reform Australia’s mental health system.

And their Do you see what I see? is a clever concept, using strong visuals to highlight that we all see things differently and should work together to find common ground.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

As Beyond Blue states, mental health is about wellness rather than illness.

For me, mental health is a delicate thing to be balanced and weighted against whatever life throws at it. Sometimes it’s tough and exhausting, so I write to help mine and travel, taking time out when I need to.

So, make a mental health promise to yourself today; it’s just as important as the physical one.

 

Just like you

 

She tries to fit in

pulls at her mouth to make it a smile

blinks her eyes hard to clear out the clouds.

 

She even pretends she’s alive

puts a bird in her heart so it chirps with a beat.

 

But she can’t seem to shut up her sadness

it speaks when she thinks that she is.

 

Copyright © J V Birch 2013

is today!  This is all about people connecting in a meaningful way to help anyone struggling with life’s ups and downs, which I’m sure we can all relate to at one time or another.

R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity in Australia, and its goals are simple and things we can all do to:

  • boost our confidence to meaningfully connect
  • nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  • strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  • be relevant, strong and dynamic

Suicide, like mental health, is a delicate thing not often discussed, so take the time to connect by asking someone R U OK? And not just today, make time every day.

To help celebrate Mental Health Week in South Australia, Mindshare hosted “HeadRead” on Wednesday night for the entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” poetry competition to perform some of their work.

 

poetry

 

The evening was brilliantly compered by Jude Aquilina, a wonderful poet who has published several fantastic collections and Nina Pearce, an MHCSA administrator who has been working tirelessly to help coordinate events throughout the week.

I was the second to read, and managed to do so with confidence and without issue!  I read alongside new and established poets, some with very poignant stories to tell, but all demonstrating a battle with the self and the impact of an unhealthy state of mind.  The whole experience felt almost cathartic, a real sense of opening up and removing the mask that some are better maintaining than others.  This took courage, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

The session finished with showing the films of the winning entries (lookout for a little black dog, images courtesy of wonderful artist Fran Sherman).  All were very different, a beautiful kaleidoscope of images and words, again with some  very powerful moments that left an imprint long after the screen went dark, like closing your eyes on the sun.

It felt good to read my work, and to network, and share and listen, definitely an aspect to help maintain my own poetic mental health, and one that will almost certainly provide inspiration for future pieces.

And today is World Mental Health Day!  So take some time out to check in on your current state and make that mental health promise to yourself now.  It can be as easy as just taking the time to look after yourself, which could be getting more sleep, regular exercise, eating healthier meals but essentially, do whatever makes you happy.

smiley face

Mental Health Week in South Australia starts on 5 October and there are a range of events to get involved in across the State – breakfasts, book launches, walks and even “Odd Socks Day”, to promote the fact that we all have “odd” days!

 

OYM Logo

 

The week is organised by the Mental Health Coalition for South Australia (MHCSA) and will begin with a balloon launch to symbolise the “letting go” of the stigma still associated with this often invisible condition, with the purpose of the week being to raise awareness of the impact it can have on the daily lives of people, their family and carers.

Mindshare are helping to host the creative events, which include “HeadRead” taking place on Wednesday 8 October at the Coffee Pot on Rundle Mall, where entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” Poetry Competition will perform some of their work alongside the short films based on the eight winning poems.

I have selected 3 pieces to read for the event, as my winning poem will be heard during the film I helped to create.  These poems convey a variety of states in respect of the delicate balancing act of the self with its mental well-being. This will actually only be the third poetry performance I have ever done, but I am very aware of the public profile poets require today, even if they do prefer privacy and solitude!  So I will get in some practice and keep my eyes open for further opportunities to “speak” rather than just write my work.

After a lull in creativity, I was thrilled to learn that I am one of eight category winners in the above competition recently run by Mindshare. The prize is turning your poem into a digital film (you may recall I won something similar with Mindshare last year so they must like my style!).

When words come to life

So last weekend I attended a workshop working with a small production team to storyboard my poem and develop it into a short film. We explored elements of image, music, breath and movement, and the place you have to get to when reading your piece aloud. This was new to me as ‘speaking’ my work is not something I often do (and when I do it’s to myself), but it made me focus on exactly what I wanted to convey. Something else new was working on an Apple Mac! Being a Windows-based girl this required quite a bit of patience and time (and not just mine!), so I am very thankful to the Mindshare team, Tracey Davies and Mona Khizam, and also to the wonderful illustrator Fran Sherman who produced all the images for my piece.

The films will be aired to the public during Mental Health Week 5-11 October, and I for one can’t wait to see the final cuts!

 

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