One issue addressed in this powerful and moving one-woman show is the unfortunate truth that mental illness is still massively misunderstood - a symptom that also seeps into theatre. I’ve seen ill-educated, borderline offensive shows which display mental illness, with all its subtleties, grey areas and unknowns, as a Me, Myself and Irene-type scenario, with its split personalities and the flailing madness of the “diseased” (a common misconception). Fiona Geddes addresses these two issues - public and theatrical misrepresentation - in her superb and, unbelievably, début show. Normal/Madness does away with all preconceived notions of mental health and presents a story that shows an understanding of writing and storytelling normally saved for Fringe veterans.
Geddes' script is funny, sometimes to the point of belly-laughter, and even some of the groan-inducing jokes later reveal themselves to be a set-up for an almighty, but tactfully underplayed, emotional punch.
Normal/Madness tells the story of Kirsty, a happy, spunky young Scottish woman living in London and her life with a schizophrenic mother. As Billy Connolly once said of Alzheimer's, “it is not the sufferer who's afflicted - it's the family” and Geddes explores this without ever coming across as selfish, blasé or arrogant. Kirsty suffers and survives and, even though the sadder moments are sometimes laid on a little too thick, Geddes provokes tears of laughter and grief. Through well placed and considerate swapping of roles and a pacey, intriguingly structured play, she reveals the ever-running veins of mental illness as they spread from its epicentre outwards to all involved.
Geddes' script is funny, sometimes to the point of belly-laughter, and even some of the groan-inducing jokes later reveal themselves to be a set-up for an almighty, but tactfully underplayed, emotional punch. Her performance and script blends naturalism with staged, stylised segments that flow comfortably from one time and setting to the next. Flashbacks, offhand comments and characters interrupting the play in real time work together to staggering effect.
In Normal/Madness Geddes has pulled off the key trick of issue-based writing – a play that has a compelling story and rich characters at its centre, but explores and investigates a bigger issue at hand without ever preaching or lecturing. An amazing début.