Review: My Beautiful Black Dog, Southbank Centre

My Beautiful Black Dog discusses the topic of mental health exactly as it should be discussed. It is imperfect, fun and beautifully honest. Currently being performed at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Woman of the World festival, it is a wonderful addition to the festival’s line-up and to the ongoing effort to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health.

Part gig, part performance poetry, the piece takes the audience through the ins and outs of what it’s like to live with depression. Starting off by handing out glitter for all audience members to put on their face, the piece feels celebratory. It not only informs us as to the fragility of our minds, but also ensures that we should accept and love them. We all need to learn to rejoice in who we are, flaws and all.

In terms of structure, the show could be classed as a musical in the way that the narrative is created through songs and speech. The speeches are pieces of poetry, so when performed turn into raps. Topics and situations covered in the lyrics are very real, which makes it hilarious as we can totally relate. What is great is that the show doesn’t contain a specific extraordinary event, but just an ordinary day or week in a person’s life.

The show is created and performed by long-time partners Brigitte Aphrodite (writer) and Quiet Boy (musical director). Aphrodite and Quiet Boy are both very skilled in their art, both as creators and performers. Performing their own work is a great choice, as it is clear when you watch that the pair understand their piece and each other very well. It is a piece that on paper seems like it wouldn’t quite work, but when performed is just pure genius, and both performers are very likeable and charismatic. Musically, the performance covers many genres and the accompanying lyrics are both witty and yet profound.

Just before the final song, Aphrodite reads out a letter she has written about her depression, how she feels about it and the possible causes of it. It is truly magic and a rare thing to find such raw and emotional honesty on stage.

Aphrodite herself said at the end of the show that she thinks the show would be perfect to tour around to inform young people about mental health – and I totally agree. It is such an accessible and informative show that is simultaneously reflective and yet uplifting. Anyone can suffer from mental health problems and the more we know about it, the easier it may be if it happens to us or our loved ones. We should never stop this conversation and should never stop trying to increase our understanding.

An inspiring piece.

My Beautiful Black Dog played at the Southbank Centre until 13 March as part of thr Women of the World Festival. For more information, see the Southbank Centre website.