FringeReview Scotland 2015
Writer/performer Fiona Geddes presents a highly personal overview with comedy and pathos of a relationship between mother and daughter which demonstrates the highs and lows of having a parent with schizophrenia. We are introduced through an informative guide, three doctors with various explanations, a daughter’s nervousness, the daughter’s relationship with a young man with his own mental health challenges and of course her mother to a world of nervousness and unpredictability. It is an episodic rendering of a story that gives us tremendous insight.
This is a piece of theatre based on a true story which requires total authenticity. Fiona Geddes is a very engaging stage presence and speaks with some authority on the matter in hand. Her vehicle for telling the tale – Kirsty McKenzie – takes us from the jokes on schizophrenia through the issues faced by her mother, to issues of probability that she or her offspring would inherit the illness to constant interruptions from her mother during the show. It is an eclectic mix of anecdote and revelation with some very surprising consequences and observations. It never fails to engage though the tempo has a measured and ponderous feel.
As an actor, Geddes delivers an overview and personal reflection of the subject with no lack of skill. I did feel, though that I was being performed at. As a piece of authentic reflection it perhaps needed a less laboured style. This may, of course be a matter of personal taste as others around me seemed less concerned.
As a writer, however I thought that Geddes brought to the stage a very effective and evocative piece of work. The episode on the beach was a highlight and beautifully written. It left me gasping at times in embarrassment because I could hear it, see it, feel it and touch what was coming next. The use of her mother phoning brought another dimension to it and though I was less convinced by the three doctors – maybe because I wanted to just punch at least one of them – the writing was crisp and clear and even. Obviously credit is due to Jessica Beck as both dramaturg and director who has fashioned a tremendous piece of theatre – though we all need the basics from which to start.
Technically I also liked this. OK a chair and a sloped piece of staging hardly qualifies as an imaginative set but it was enough and used well. The lighting was also a wee favourite of mine as it was atmospherically used – particularly at the end – in a subtle yet unobtrusive way that delivered the audience and directed them to the right emotive response.
This was presented as part of Mental Health Awareness week and it was a piece of theatre that was highly effective in not only bringing the issues to a stage but theatrically presenting them in a way that made you think. One of the dangers about being part of anything weeks or days is that it preaches and delivers a “message” rather than uses theatre to explore. This explored and would stand up as a performance piece wherever it was performed. As I left I had two audience members behind me describe it loudly as brilliant and how Geddes was enthralling. Whilst I might have had a couple more concerns than they were willing to express I could not fault the belief that this had been an hour of my time well spent. Kidder have brought to the stage a voice that I shall look forward to listening to again. Obviously the split of credit between writer, performer, dramaturg and director shall only be really known in a rehearsal room but collectively this was a piece of great theatre delivered as part of Mayfesto as well as the Awareness Week. I look forward to the next production and hope to see Kidder or Fiona Geddes (Or both together) sometime very soon.