Cognitions was confessional, poetic physical theatre. I was gripped enough to only write one page in my notebook, because I didn’t want to miss any of the fantastically choreographed movements that the ‘Cogs’ were performing, with such energy and enthusiasm that it lit the stage. The production is a two-hander speaking performance between a mother and her daughter, which a handout informs us was inspired by true events; the relationship between the writer and her own mother. On the same handout, there are three links for charities, one of which is Mind; it is thus made immediately clear that this is a production interested in mental health, specifically bipolar disorder.

A well-informed and detailed theatrical exploration of bipolar disorder, which I would wholeheartedly recommend.

The production manages this topic matter with empathy, sensitivity and honesty. Speaking as someone who has first-hand experience of depression and anxiety, the dialogue between Joanna and her daughter Niamh struck a deep, resonant chord in its accurate reflection of the violent ricocheting of love and hate that relationships under strain from conditions like bipolar can suffer. Physically manifesting these ‘faulty cognitions’ as three onstage performers effectively demonstrated the impossible trap of mental health conditions like bipolar disorder. The individual in question can simultaneously rely on depressive or manic episodes even whilst understanding their toxicity. This unwelcome-welcome was reflected in the ‘Cogs’ movements as they alternatively hugged Joanna, offered her paints in a particularly manic moment and gave coaxing breaths, both in canon and synchronised.

Use of lighting added well to the development of atmosphere onstage, and the performers were confident, passionate and thoroughly engaging. Some of the longer passages of monologue could benefit from a finely-tuned attention to pace, and the exhaustion of depressive episodes needed to perhaps be exaggerated more, to enable greater contrast with the manic periods. However, overall, I thought Cognitions was a well-informed and detailed theatrical exploration of bipolar disorder, which I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Reviews by Alice Carlill

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The Blurb

'I have them too. Faulty cognitions.' This newly devised piece examines the effect of bipolar disorder on family life, as Joanna and her daughter Niamh face every challenge together. A play about co-dependency, relationships and learning to be OK on your own. A sell out show selected by NSDF.