Think presents a positive experience of institutionalisation
The show navigates its distressing topic material with touching honesty and a passion to inspire open conversation about mental health. Seeking support for the problems at the heart of the play is actively encouraged, with leaflets available at the end of the show to anyone affected by the raw performances of its cast, particularly Stefan Race in the physically and emotionally demanding role of Jay. Osbon’s Ana (shorthand for ‘anorexia’), the voice of Jay’s illness personified, is another standout performance. Her more stylised choreography, moving in tandem with Jay, provides a dynamic contrast to the naturalism of the rest of the piece.
Theatre like Think is hugely important, and should be mandatory viewing for anyone without much experience or understanding of severe mental health disorders. Eye-opening and informative, this play really does make you think, addressing the need for public understanding and sensitivity when it comes to such issues. Even the sufferers, Jay and Molly, are able to educate each other on their illnesses. Jay can't understand how Molly can be depressed when she’s ‘so beautiful’, which of course sounds ridiculous to Molly. Similarly, Molly’s initial grotesque insensitivity regarding Jay’s anorexia is a revealing reflection of people’s lack of awareness and empathy regarding eating disorders, heightened to show the farcical nature of such attitudes but nonetheless based in reality.
It's not a two-hander, though; the ensemble multi-role convincingly as a variety of characters that make up Jay and Molly’s network, including the unit staff, his sister and her boyfriend. The unwavering support of those close to Jay and Molly, despite all difficulties, is exemplary and very moving; there was some audible sniffling coming from the audience at the end of the piece.
Daily inspirational quotes on a whiteboard and colourful primary school-esque furniture make up Think’s simple and versatile set, which is manoeuvred in slick scene transitions, using original music to memorable effect. The unit appears so conscious of avoiding feeling clinical that it is almost patronisingly welcoming. Ultimately, though, Think presents a positive experience of institutionalisation. In reality, such resources are enormously oversubscribed and under-funded, and many people don't manage to get the help they desperately need. The first step in rectifying the situation is breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health, and Think is an inspiring one in the right direction.