Verbatim shows have hit this year’s Fringe like a storm. Snap Out of It! is about mental illness: entries have been received by sufferers of poor mental health and are read out to us, alongside interviews.
It focuses mainly on depression and the same symptoms seemed to be dwelled on repeatedly, giving the piece a monotonous feel. There was one mention of anorexia, hardly anything was said of panic disorders, and nothing said of schizophrenia or substance abuse disorders. However, there was an interesting mixture of opinion on mental illness. Someone had written in about depression not having to be seen as ‘elicit’ and how diagnosis ‘took the romanticism out of unhappiness’. This was juxtaposed with someone who considered themselves ‘sane’ and ‘conservative’ and thought those with mental health disorders should, as the title suggests, ‘snap out of it’.
However, the show as a whole lacked structure and the entries didn’t seem to have been chosen or ordered in a particularly interesting way. Much breath and time was wasted on explaining aspects of the production, which could have been done more concisely in a programme. There was also a lack of clarity as to what exactly the show was trying to do. If it was simply trying to raise awareness, it somewhat succeeds, although mental illness is now a pretty common theme in stage and screenplays. If it was trying to educate people about these mental illnesses beyond what the average audience will already know, the range of mental illness covered perhaps should have been widened. It did however do something to point out problems in the NHS regarding mental health, for instance faulty psychiatric tests and the fact that some GP’s are more interested and equipped in administering flu jabs than treating anorexia.
We were told from the start that the cast ‘don’t see themselves as actors’. By limiting themselves in this way, their show became less engaging than it could have been. Furthermore, there was definitely a level of acting that was being pursued. It just lacked conviction. There was little variation within and between the cast-members’ performances and often the same syllables were emphasised in each sentence in the same lilting tone. It also felt gratingly sentimental at times, when actors just gazed on at whichever cast member who was speaking, with supportive, mournful expressions on their faces. Although it was good to illustrate that these were real entries, it didn’t seem necessary that the physical letters be held and read from each time. The production also offered little in the way of physical movement or visual stimuli. Beyond hanging up various entries onto fishing lines which hung across the stage, or sitting around reading, highlighting and underlining other entries, movement didn’t seem to have been truly considered.
Ultimately, when considering what is gained from seeing ‘Snap out of it’ rather than simply reading the same entries online, the answer is very little. Although the entries themselves were often interesting, they became somewhat repetitive and more could have been done with them.