The show opens with a simple stage setting; a cardboard box labelled “Kate’s Crying Box”, decorated with silver glitter; a chair; an unmade bed on the floor; a pair of doc martens; and a packed case, ready to go at a moment’s notice. The lighting is warm and sets us at ease as we file in and wait for the show to begin. Aschoff tells us a little more about how this show has impacted them, how they’re feeling, and what could happen if they have a panic attack. As an audience member I felt immediately connected to them through their clarity and vulnerability and was thankful for their honesty before beginning what for many would be a difficult piece.
Aschoff weaves poetry, anecdotes, facts about depression, and voiceover together, jumping between each - however, at times this becomes convoluted and I occasionally lost sight of the narrative. Gentle lighting changes by Emma Maguire helps guide us as an audience- however at times these elements became convoluted when too dramatic or repetitive. The show begins and ends with Aschoff in bed, tossing and turning, while pre recorded radio clips played giving statistics on mental illness. I was slightly disappointed to find that these topics of mental health in our communities were not touched on again; this content at the beginning of the play felt somewhat misleading as it gave a false sense of the content to come.
This piece has a grassroots, grounded feel, as the set appeared primarily home brought and home made, and Aschoff relies on the use of a notebook to prompt lines and stories. However, Aschoff’s charisma, charm, wit and connection with the audience capture our attention throughout the piece. There is room for development and growth within a piece like this; some stories and metaphors left us hanging with no real closure or message, and there was a sense of physical discomfort in the space which seemed to lead to a sense of caging and restriction; I would have liked to see more use of the staging and more physicality of the issues spoken about.
I left this performance with a feeling of catharsis which was unique - without saying a word, I felt listened to and validated as Aschoff recounted many experiences, thoughts and feelings that mirrored my own. Art on mental illness runs the risk of becoming self pitying or gloomy; however, this piece was pragmatic, educational and inspiring. Adventures with Depression runs from 14-16 March, at 6pm at the Gryphon Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.