Cheque Please allows us to meet Ivy, a girl suffering from depression; she weaves sequences of her life in between smashing the fourth wall with confessional rants. The coffee shop where she works, dinner with friends and a self-help group all rotate around her deteriorating mental state.
The sequencing of the piece is effective, in that it provides a clear juxtaposition between Ivy’s public and private persona. Her behaviour is shrouded in denial and confusion, and the play’s careful structure reflects this. Jolting from being overwhelmed as the characters up their tempo around her, and feeling desperately alone, the play simulates Ivy’s tumultuous emotions as she, alone with all props intentionally removed, almost pleads with the audience to help her.
Displaying precise performances from all characters, the cast help each other move across the stage, never overshadowing each other. Cheque Please is interesting and well performed, but often feels like a textbook exposition on mental illness. Remarkably similar to a John Green book and a quintessential midday sitcom, its plotline is not exactly bad but neither is it remarkable. Its meaning is tangled in unnecessary words and its ‘do or don’t’ denouement leaves a lot to be desired.
Madeline Hardy is excellent in what is a demanding performance, her cast dancing around behind her forming interchangeable characters in what becomes Ivy’s monotonous, black and white life. Ivy is distant and occasionally vicious, and for a relatively unlikeable character, Hardy gives her a humane face. Most effective is how the play jumps from Ivy’s first person narrative, and her relationship with events going on around her. It puts scenes of her as a waitress in a different light, making Ivy vulnerable and her self-destruction painful to watch. Cheque Please is a heart-string tugging piece of theatre, a neat exploration of mental illness and a valiant effort from all involved.
Cheque Please is playing at ZOO until 30 August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For tickets and more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.