This one-woman show, written and performed by Isabelle Kabban, is a tender, thoughtful and deeply moving account of a mother-daughter relationship affected by mental illness. Love (Watching Madness) offers an opportunity to open up discussion surrounding the increasingly pressing issue of mental health, and the importance of support for families who are impacted.
A tender, thoughtful and deeply moving account of a mother-daughter relationship affected by mental illness.
The story moves between childhood and adulthood to portray a daughter’s relationship with her mother, who is suffering from an unnamed, undiagnosed mental illness. Flitting between moments from childhood and moving forwards into adulthood, the show gives a painful vision of the feelings of isolation and powerlessness experienced by a child in such a situation. The story is told partially through the vehicle of a counselling session, allowing for specific memories and emotions to be unpacked into the space.
Kabban gives a touching performance, switching between vulnerable child and disorientated adult often in the space of seconds. She plays multiple scenes between mother and child with clarity and precision, defining each character clearly while maintaining the intensity of her connection with us. Brutally honest writing brings home the painful, messy truth of living with mental illness. A particularly moving scene portrays the protagonist telling her mother that she has been offered an interview for Bristol University, and the ensuing discussion reveals her mother's increasing dependency. The show offers a nuanced exploration of how our identity can be formed from, and indeed intertwined with, that of our parents.
The confined space of Pleasance Bunker Three is wonderfully suited to the establishing a sense of intimacy and enabling Kabban’s continued connection with us. Strobe lighting and raging music are used sparsely to build an atmosphere of frustration and chaotic, unprocessed emotion, while more subtle sound design and changes of lighting help to define changes in time and location. The incorporation of a tub water awash with keepsakes and memories is a thought provoking way to explore the notion of childhood memory.
This intimate and tender production shares a story rooted in personal experience, with universal implications for the way we see mental health and motherhood.