Writer: Melissa Dunne
Director: Wiebke Green
That little voice that tells some of us that we’re not good enough or thin enough or clever enough gets a severe talking to in Melissa Dunne’s new play. But in Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands that little voice is also seen as something that stays with us, and is part of us. This clever piece by Papercut Theatre examines mental health from all angles, and it manages it without a hint of condescension.
But there’s also another voice we have to listen to; the one we have internalised from the guidance of the media and the NHS. The mantra is that we should exercise at least 150 mins per week, that we should eat more vegetables ( kale in particular), that we should cut down our alcohol intake etc. etc.. All that voice does is make us feel guilty when we fail to achieve its demands.
The play starts off suggesting that often bad mental health is something that only young white women suffer from. If black women have bad mental health it’s often seen as aggression; if Middle Eastern or South Asian men have bad mental health it’s often deemed to be cultural. If men ask for help they are seen as weak.
In another 10 scenes the four cast members enact various approaches to discussions around mental health in inventive and often humorous ways. Director Wiebke Green ensures that the action is swift, but there are also some moments of calm too. Trica Wey goes speed dating to see what people think about her mental illness; three cast members do a yoga class to relax but they find it impossible to turn off that nagging voice. Hamza Siddque goes gym-crazy to banish those inner doubts while Josie Charles is held in a circle of light while the voices go on and on.
Feeling right at home in the Cavern, the VAULT Festival’s most atmospheric venue, Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands makes good use of the space and Holly Ellis’ lights enhance its shadowy edges, seen most chillingly when the darkness threatens to engulf Joe Eyre.
Dunne is keen to point out that there is no real narrative arc to mental illness with a clear beginning, middle and end, and quite neatly the play replicates this idea and the non-ending highlights this completely, likewise the abstract nature of the show. This is stirring stuff, and is one of the stand-out shows of the VAULT Festival so far.
Runs until 16 February 2019