How do you live after your sister dies by her own hand? You mourn. Then twenty years later, if you’re strong enough, you write a raw and painful, yet comforting musical diary about it. I’m glad Kat Lee-Ryan did, because I believe this performance has the power to save lives.
This performance has the power to save lives.
Sparkly Bird is written and directed by singer songwriter Kat Lee-Ryan, and performed together with The Fabulous Red Diesel band. It begins with the harrowing title song Sparkly Bird, with Kat behind the keyboards and a dancer curled up on stage, hugging her knees. The empty trapeze rocking above her is a bad omen of things to come. Kat’s rootsy voice demands your full attention and never lets it go. “Sparkly bird, why did you fly away from me? You knew your little ship was sinking, but you sailed it anyway.”
The twelve songs of Sparkly Bird form a heart-breaking story of a young mom losing her battle with depression. She was found dead by her husband, who had no idea that she was depressed, let alone suicidal. She had a beautiful home, a good marriage, a lovely son and a rewarding job. What could have caused her to commit such a desperate act? By fusing together song, narration and dance, the story examines the underlying causes of suicide, as the family tries to find a resolution.
Between songs a narrator delivers factual evidence about baby blues, depression, medication, and suicidal behaviour. I was torn between not wanting to let go of the songs, yet welcoming a breather from the sea of emotions I was dwelling in. Another distraction was the slightly uneven camera work. This was essentially a live performance forced into a digital format. With better composition and editing, it would have created a really immersive experience with Kat’s singing, the band, the dancers, and the background video clips.
Sparkly Bird is as much about healing as it is about suicide. As Kat goes through the stages of grief, she slowly learns to be merciful to herself. The atmosphere develops from the initial horror to cherishing fond memories of a loved one. While Kat may never find meaning for what happened to her sister, she certainly wants to bust myths about suicide. The majority of people who are suicidal do not want to die; they just don’t want to live the life they have.
Even though Kat couldn’t be the Time Lord and save her little sister, she could turn the ordeal into an empowering performance, where the memory of her sister can live forever in her music. When Kat sings, “I never wanna do this again,” we can all agree that nobody should.