Normal?, Ovalhouse Theatre
The theme of mental health in a play is hardly a novel idea. However Normal? by award winning writer Ann Akin brings a different angle and doesn’t so much tackle the issues from the point of view of the sufferer, but the affect it has on the family surrounding them.
Ash (Ashton) is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, which leaves her frequently hearing voices and convinced that walking bare foot in the snow is normal practice. Her adopted sister Ray (Akin) is her only carer but the stresses and strains of Ash’s sometimes-violent illness, are beginning to take their toll. While Ray longs for a normal life will she be able to cope if her ever present sister were no longer always by her side?
Normal? is an emotional and thought provoking tale that explores shame, stigma and the emotional turmoil frequently caused by having a mental ill family member. Told using a collection of monologues and duologues the piece has a stylised and choreographed feel thanks to Akin’s background as a dancer. This approach to direction wasn’t entirely successful as at times I felt the movement of the actors lacked an organic nature and felt a little rehearsed. However this didn’t detract from what is ultimately a moving and provocative piece that looks at some of the feelings encompassing mental health that we don’t often see.
This is thanks to the performances from the two actors who shared chemistry and harmony that beautifully conveyed their relationship. Akin’s final monologue as she begged to return to her previous normality left the audience speechless and as tears rolled down her cheeks; you knew they were coming from a personal experience. Ashton’s performance brought you right into the mind of someone who hears voices and I was especially moved when she communicated to the audience her desire to end it all.
Written as a First Bites performance Normal? is a short play that deserved to be developed further as its themes of what it means to be ‘normal’ truly warrant exploration.
Written by and Directed by Ann Akin
Cast: Ann Akin & Catherine Ashton
Choreographed by Ann Akin
Normal? Was part of 33 % First Bites and was first performed on January 12, 2012
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