Any show with the subject matter around mental health is a subject that is very close to many people, myself included. It remains an uncomfortable topic to talk about, due to various stigmas that float around in our society; as well as the impairing feeling of not being “good enough”. At the same time, certain pieces can try to divulge either incorrect or very small sectors of certain mental illnesses and exaggerate.
Hearing Things, however, tackles these issues in a heartfelt and honest way. Not only do we see mental illness from the point of view of someone who can hear voices – and viewing someone who can hear voices from an outside perspective – but also from the view of the therapists that deal with these patients; and how actually, the patients are not the only ones experiencing hardship.
It was refreshing to see how therapists get involved on a personal level by forming friendly relationships with these people who are, after all, just people. We see Nicholas (Jim Pope) through various walks of life showing us his interactions with his patients, how he struggles to separate himself from his work, and how this can affect his home life as well.
The talented cast of three demonstrate some of the most interesting multi-roling I’ve ever seen on stage. The scene and time changes at the beginning were very sudden, and were sometimes hard to keep up with, but it doesn’t take long to realise that this is done with artistic purpose. Both Jeanette Rourke and Daniel Ward switch from each of their characters with ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ transitions. Jeanette’s understanding of someone struggling with mental health issues through her nervous mannerisms and her perfected stutters were so natural that I was in awe watching her. Similarly, with Daniel Ward as Innocent, a troubled patient who hears daunting voices, and also as Patrick, Nichols’ elderly dad who is suffering from mental deterioration – they are just brilliant. I was very impressed with a particular moment at the beginning. Ward was playing the father, wiped a towel over his head and merged into Innocent. His whole physicality changed as if he was morphing. This shows his high value as a performer.
The three used the space well, although, I’m not sure it was entirely necessary that the piece was played in the round. It still worked, but I would have like to have known the specific artist choice behind this. Aside from that, it was a fantastically interesting insight that steered away from obvious choices, always having the audience guess where the story was heading.
Hearing Things played at the Omnibus Theatre and VAULT festival till 12 February. To stay up to date with the Playing On company, click here.