by Emma Lamond
Poor mental health can make us horrible people, and nobody talks enough about it. This play does just that with nuance and painful realism.
The ensemble cast – Josie Charles, Joe Eyre, Hamza Siddique and Tricia Way – work incredibly well together in order to present the inner thoughts and external responses to people living with poor mental health. The energy they display is superb and creates a positive atmosphere, despite the at-times bleak subject matter. The near-constant physical exercise that punctuates the piece is engaging and creates some beautiful imagery, whilst also bringing a physical reality to the mental exhaustion that they speak of. The audience are vocal in their responses throughout, with the actors drawing out chuckles of recognition and loud sighs of knowing exasperation.
The use of live foley and sound effects, along with the use of mime, are very successful and enhance the piece enormously. Creating sounds in this way heightens their impact and also presents a disjointed visual. This helps to further create off-kilter experiences of the world that people may have when struggling with their mental health, and adds an deeper understanding to the piece.
The Brechtian style effectively drives the narrative, with the actors breaking from the the world of the play to announce new scenes. However, the most interesting moments are when the direction breaks this set-up. The use of props and mess to show a downward spiral is visually pleasing and fun in the moment, and really highlights what carnage it can cause. Another moment near the end of the piece is also a highlight, where one character’s disregard for the story is beautiful and poetic in its staging. Through simple yet effective choices, the team are able to show the all-encompassing nature of poor mental health and the pain a crisis can cause.
Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands is a difficult but beautiful piece of theatre. It takes the audience through a collage of emotions and presents a real, but entertaining, take on poor mental health. The company present authentic honesty, skillfully contributing to a wider trend in theatre working to destigmatise mental health. Though these productions are difficult to watch, they are absolutely necessary, and Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands is leading the way in presenting the issue on stage.
Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands runs through 16 February.
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