Used tissues, dry shampoo, empty takeaway tubs, sanitary towels, a box of Cheerios, piles of laundry, self-help books and family photos are scattered around the stage at Landor Space this April. The reason? Writer and performer Caterina Incisa’s one-woman show 0 Days Without Crying is in town, having previously played at the Montreal Fringe Festival last summer. Anna Marshall directs this production of the play.

There is a lot to be said for Jo Wright’s clever staging. It tells a story before Incisa, as character Jess, has even arrived on stage. When she does, it’s a show-stopping moment thanks to set and costume designer Wright’s ingenuity. We meet Jess as she bares all, sort of, for a life drawing class. The audience can’t tear their eyes away from the creative, comic and deliberately awkward “naked” body costume. It immediately sets the tone for the rest of 0 Days Without Crying.

Incisa is confident in her role of Jess, a character who bares some similarities to her creator. She takes us with her on a three-month quest to fall in love with herself as she fights the ghoulish voices that air her darkest anxieties and squash the confident young woman standing in front of us. She re-enacts conversations with her friends, doctor, therapist and father, as they all give well-intended but effectively useless advice to help her with her relentless self-loathing and never-ending grief for her mother. Many of the conversations heard on stage will be recognisable to millennial women dealing with the contradiction of wanting to practice self-care and self-love but being unable to avoid comparing themselves or being compared to conventional beauty standards. When her therapist asks “isn’t your mental health more important than if you can squeeze into you jeans?” he misses the point that sometimes the two are inextricably linked.

The play has snappy one-liners, like “my vagina, the fleshy window to my tortured soul” and accomplished sound and light transitions transporting Jess from one scene to the next. The sound effects in particular, synchronised to Incisa’s movements, are of particular note thanks to the work of sound designer and composer Wilfred Petherbridge. The trigger for the play’s resolution comes awkwardly and slightly anticlimactically, but this could be deliberate. Its short run time catches you unawares and leaves you wanting just a little more.

Despite this, 0 Days Without Crying is a laugh-out-loud comedy that manages to broach important and difficult discussions about mental health in a truly unique way – it’s a very real depiction of the phrase “to make light of”.

0 Days Without Crying played at Landor Space until 11 April 2018

Photo: Saima Ahmed