‘Mental’ is a play by Kane Power and his mother Kim Power that sets out to deconstruct a stigma. It does so effectively, and in the most artful way possible. The audience can leave enriched; we have been offered a valuable education, as well as an immersion in the work of an exceptional creative talent.
The play is a half documentary, half musical exploration of what it means to live with bipolar disorder, and is told through stories of Kane Power’s mother who lives with bipolar. Power pulls off this one man show with charming honesty. When introducing his work he makes the disclaimer that it will ultimately ‘fail’ at communicating the experience of bipolar. While it is not my place to judge whether it does or does not fail at this, it certainly succeeds in handing the audience a new lens with which to understand this disorder.
Though our society is becoming increasingly aware of mental health, representation of bipolar often still involves caricatures and dangerous myths. Kane Power and his mother tear into this with writing and performance which has humanity and truth beating through it. It is a show with layer upon layer of sounds and ideas, expressing through the use of looped vocals and inventive autotune, the highs and lows of the manic and depressive states that come with bipolar. Distorted voices build up to overwhelm as Power explains to us how bipolar can affect the person who lives with it and those around them.
The music in the play is a breath of fresh air. Power’s voice is charming then powerful, and the lyrics of his songs are not flowery, but honest. He is poignant without ever being self-congratulatory or pretentious. His magic with words is evident again in parts of his monologue that slip into spoken word. This particularly stands out when he explains how his mother understands words, and what this does to the meaning of the medication she is taking. Words and syllables take on new meanings and new life as Power speaks with a careful strength.
At its core, this is remarkably kind writing that refuses to believe in a single, false narrative about mental ill health and those who live with it.
Mental is playing at Assembly Roxy until August 27. For more information and tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/mental