Dir. Jessica Beck, Tron Theatre, 14th – 16th May 2015
Performed in the small, intimate space of the Tron Theatre’s Changing House, the impact of Fiona Geddes’ solo show Normal/Madness is undeniably powerful. It is a candid, humorous and very real exploration of the impact that mental illness can have upon relationships.
Based on real-life events, the show follows Kirsty McKenzie, an ordinary young woman whose mother has schizo-affective disorder and whose fiancée is bipolar. Geddes begins by asking the audience about their assumptions and understanding of schizophrenia, and in the hour that follows she continually challenges and questions the traditional depiction of mental illness in a very humane, and yet complex way.
The show itself largely consists of a monologue, in which Kirsty relates different aspects of the complicated relationship that exists between mother and daughter. This is occasionally spliced with haunting and impeccably acted flashbacks, demonstrating the harrowing reality of her mother’s illness, and verbatim extracts from medical professionals explaining the nature of the disorder. Kirsty’s own reminiscences examine the emotional and practical impact of the issues that have come to dominate her life, not least with her poignant struggle to accept her inability to have children of her own. Additionally, Kirsty’s phone continually rings throughout the show, a frustrating interruption that vividly demonstrates the overwhelming nature of her mother’s illness and forms the underlying tragedy behind the wryly expressed anecdotes.
It is unquestionably difficult to acknowledge the struggle and strain that often results from living with a mentally ill person, and to accomplish such a depiction in a way that does not smack of callousness – and it is a problem which Geddes navigates well. Her final words are ones in which she admits that whilst it may not always be easy to love and appreciate her mother, she will always try, a sentiment that is eloquently and skilfully expressed throughout Normal/Madness.