We’re told that ‘Max needs a firm hand’, as the performance launches with three actors clad in balaclavas. They perform deliberate, synchronised movements in a dramatic ensemble inspired by the writer’s experiences with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Kit Redstone has written this piece beautifully; each character representing different aspects of Max’s personality. They present a paradox to the audience, that despite their negatives – fear, self doubt, self criticism, self loathing, negative coping strategies – these fractured elements exist to protect him from the memories that would otherwise engulf him.
An internal tug of war that allows the audience to fully understand the elements of this disorder
Despite the subject matter, the performance doesn’t come across as sombre. It’s alive – almost electric, as the personification of Max’s neutrons present as a coquettish, blamey girl (Jessica Clark); a sad boy clutching for answers and positivity (Neil Chinneck); and an angry, defensive boy searching for reason in the chaos (Kit Redstone). The characters adapt and change and interplay, co-dependent and exhausted by the strain of their combined power. The physical movement in the piece is stunning, with synchronised movements that fully utilise the prison-like bars on stage for dramatic effect. The direction by Jessica Edwards is phenomenal in mirroring the themes presented in the performance.
The themes in this piece are colossal – vengeance, justice, liberation – an internal tug of war that allows the audience to fully understand the elements of this disorder and mental health in general. The characters present coherent logic on why one might seem to choose to lose friends, lose jobs, sofa surf, live off grid… it’s entirely plausible as we enter the deep recesses of Max’s “gated cul de sac” brain.
This is perhaps one of the best depictions of mental health this reviewer has seen. It’s a stark and savage stare into the struggles of the mind, written so bewitchingly with lyricism that winds its way into our own psyches. Ultimately Max stares down his trauma, confronting it head on – appreciating that this isn’t the end of his condition; that these characters will remain with him to protect him. And when they lay dormant, he even misses them. This is an interesting phenomenon presented in an accessible and relatable way for the audience.
This performance should be seen by anyone who has an interest in the inner workings of the mind. It’s an incredibly accomplished expedition into the subconscious, elevated by the credible and passionate performance by Clark, Chinneck and Redstone. The audience is spellbound as they fully inhabit these necessary spectres, each one a tutor of their craft in keeping Max alive. The ultimate paradox being that unchecked, they’ll run him into oblivion. A necessary watch before the end of the festival!