Mental

Kane Power makes many admissions at the start of Mental. He admits he is uncertain of how to portray bipolar disorder on stage, or even if he should. He is also not sure whether it’s right to use his mum’s illness as the basis of his performance. Despite this, Power’s production is a vast and diverse piece of theatre as he attempts to summarise the disorder through words and music, including recordings of his mum’s health records and own voice.

Kane’s production is not perfect, but the courage and honesty portrayed is truly awe-inspiring.

It is the all-encompassing nature of this production which makes it hard to follow. Verbally, Power explains bipolar disorder clearly and openly. I feel like I’m learning, making steps towards understanding this complicated condition. Then suddenly, he moves to his keyboard and begins playing abstract electro-pop with repeated words spoken over and over in a loop until they become incomprehensible. There are also moments of performance art, so strange that I struggle to know what is being conveyed. To have such clear explanations alternated with such cryptic interpretive moments becomes frustrating. Just as the audience comes close to figuring out life with a serious mental illness they are alienated again, but this seems exactly the kind of relationship that Power has experienced with his mother for most of his life.

What keeps me engaged, however, is Power himself. He’s an immensely likeable and welcoming chap, inviting us into his most private and personal experiences for our own benefit. In monologues, he describes bipolar disorder with such clarity that he really could be in front of a classroom.

Though hard to pin down, Mental makes for an educational and entertaining show. Power asks us to think of the performance as a series of stories, and in that frame of mind his production really works. Through his mother’s life, we are offered snatches of the bipolar experience and what it is like to live with this debilitating disorder. By his own admission, Kane’s production is not perfect, but the courage and honesty portrayed is truly awe-inspiring.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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The Blurb

'This heart-wrenching story both educates and entertains, leaving you more aware of the world around you' ***** (TheEdgeSusu.co.uk). 'deeply moving' ***** (TheSpyInTheStalls.com). At a time when mental health is increasingly making the headlines, yet still so many are unable to speak about their experience for fear of stigma, this show tells a personal story that will get people talking. A show about one son's moving exploration into his mum's mental health. 'Such craft and illumination deserves a big audience. Go see it' (Ed Whitfield, ViewFromTheCheapSeats.com). @thementalshow