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Aidan Moesby’s soft monologue I Was Naked, Smelling of Rain is a spiralling, melancholic metaphor for the loneliness epidemic told through gorgeous descriptions of the weather. Projections of storms and snow bounce off a weather balloon as Moesby invites you into one of the most earnest conversations about mental health I have ever experienced.
Mental illness is by no means polite British small talk, but it’s currently at the forefront of so many discussions that it swamps mainstream media. Moesby breaks the ice, speaking of the quiet, overshadowed aspects of severe mental illness and the unspoken days where chores and personal hygiene disintegrate.
They compare the weather to our own inner emotional cycles: being presented with a person who’s “under a cloud” is easier to process than hearing of those bleak dark days with absolutely no motivation. We don’t like to think of moments where one is barely able to draw breath, completely dead inside. The piece highlights the utter exhaustion of bitterly, ugly mental illness because we are far too fixated on generalised concepts of depression and anxiety. Moesby understands these depictions are far easier to choke down than the onslaughts of suicidal voices or having very few childhood memories due to trauma.
As serene as the small space Moesby inhabits is, with BSL interpreter Sue Lee almost dancing at their side, the words hurt. Our speaker asks who determines what ‘functionality’ actually means in the face of people dying early from their loneliness. They feel that, “Your essence is on the anvil and it’s being hammered out of shape.” Then there’s the matter of environmentalism; Moesby faces overstimulation in supermarkets by the sheer amount of plastic and the crushing consumerist guilt when wanting to buy paper plates to prevent a build-up of depression dishes. But this argument turns outward to the companies who perpetuate obesity and pollution. Climate change activism should not be ableist – if your environmental policies don’t factor in disabled people who need a plastic straw, they are exclusionary.
Moesby’s words are saddening, breathing a coldness into you where you’ll need reflection time once you close your laptop. We can’t forecast the hardships in our lives, but we can draw from our experiences to look toward a better future. Moesby tells us of vernalisation and how without a cold snap acorns will never become oak trees. We understand the beauty of one’s own company and how you can fall in love with the weather with such intensity that it becomes the first thing you need every single morning.
I Was Naked, Smelling of Rain is playing online until the 16th January. For more information and tickets, see the Southbank Centre website.