Brighton Fringe 2019
Oliver Taylor and Dillon Mapletoft, bring us a clever, funny and thoughtful show about depression and mental illness. Winners of last years Brighton Fringe Best Newcomer Award they’re back again for a sell out run.
The Brighton Fringe advert for Fix My Brain describes it as ‘A gag-packed storytelling sketch show about what happens when your brain won’t let you be happy’. It’s not wrong.
Oliver Taylor and Dillon Mapletoft, bring us a clever, funny and thoughtful show about depression and mental illness. Winners of last years Brighton Fringe Best Newcomer Award they’re back again. This time they’ve added an extra show to cope with demand.
Fix My Brain is a cleverly constructed series of sketches, interwoven with pre-recorded internal monologues, jokes and a couple of movies. It gallops along slickly, with its run-time feeling much shorter than an hour.
From the start it becomes clear that Fix My Brain is a bit special. The actors chemistry has the familiarity and ease of very old friends. Both are young, articulate, intelligent, funny and loaded with talent.
The show itself looks at how depression becomes woven into our sense of identity, how it changes our view of the world and the impact it has on those around us.
As you’d expect from two Cambridge Graduates, the text references moral philosophy, literature and psychology as well as modern cultural reference points from; film, tv and video games. The sharp dialogue plays with cultural norms, veering from the absurd to the philosophical in a heartbeat. However, whether the references are high or low brow, young or old they are presented so that even we simple folk can see their significance and humour. They enrich the show.
The gags are well-constructed. Some have telegraphed punchlines that suddenly switch, causing you to laugh at something you couldn’t possibly have thought of. Where the humour comes from jokes traditionally told, these are well paced and engaging. Puns abound, monologues amuse, and sketches produce deep laughs. The understated, dead pan delivery works well with the material.
Cleverly, Fix My Brain showcases symptoms of depression, countering them with everyday responses from friends and therapists alike. As a device it serves to highlight the limitation of the audience’s own experience, and responses to such symptoms. This reveals an uncomfortable truth, although the impact of this realisation is lessened by the ever-present humour.
The depressive in the show isn’t a constant focus of sympathy, at times he is manipulative and self-absorbed. There is a mutual connivance in maintaining the form of their relationship, itself a function of negative co-dependency.
It presents universal, thoughts, feelings and emotions with humour and pathos. There is something within the characters for everyone to recognise. The internal monologues have a feeling of authenticity, as though our sense of self is being seen through, mockingly, over critical eyes.
At one stage I felt I was watching a married couple, their frictions and frustrations mimicking real life emotions and coping strategies from within a relationship.
Whilst the subject matter, and some of the jokes would classify this as dark comedy, it in no way has a feeling of bleak emptiness. Some of the gags are just the right side of tasteless but still funny. The references to 1960’s French existential cinema are well worked and lead to definite high point. Who would have thought there was such humour in crushing social anxiety, the pointlessness of existence and our struggle to find meaning.
This is a thoughtful, clever piece of work, produced by two very talented people. The depth and insight into depression and mental illness belies their age. The comedy is well crafted and expertly delivered. The audience loved it, with constant laughter and prolonged applause at the end. If I was a BBC Commissioning Editor, I’d be looking to sign these two as quickly as possible and allow them to make whatever they wanted. They are returning to Brighton Fringe next year with another show, I look forward to it with anticipation. This is very Highly Recommended.