‘Normal / Madness’ (Assembly Roxy: 12 – 13 May ’15)

Photos: Kidder theatre

Photos: Kidder theatre

“A show that is performed with great sympathy that you will take heart from”

Editorial Rating:  4 Stars: Nae Bad

You say ‘Normal’, slash, ‘Madness’; I say ‘Normal’, oblique, ‘Madness’. WTF; you’re right, ‘slash’ is sharper, more definite. But it cuts both ways. Yes, there’s separation but they’re related, surely?

And that’s the point. Look at the flyer for Kidder theatre’s Normal / Madness. Mother and daughter, backs to the camera, are walking down a railway track holding hands; each balances on one rail, each supports the other. They walk beneath a star filled sky – in golden light – and it’s a lovely, endearing picture; but were it for real we’d have an irresponsible, lunatic, piece of parenting.

Here’s the crass response: “Pull yourself together woman!” Oh, is that all you have to do? What if you can’t because you’re ill? What if your whole life can become precarious in an instant? That’d be mental, then.

Kirsty McKenzie, 30, tells it how it is and how it was. Her mother, Mary, has schizoaffective disorder and has had it for a long time. She suffers psychotic symptoms, similar to schizophrenia, and the mood symptoms of the manic depressive. We see Mary overwhelmed and scared. We see Kirsty caring, trying to help and to understand.

Writer/Actor Fiona Geddes is alone on stage. She’s Kirsty with a broad smile, a ready sense of humour and a wonderful positive manner. She’s also Mary, low, terribly anxious and scrabbling in the sand for the six pounds in coppers that she buried and now cannot find. The tide is coming in along the Moray Firth and the children’s treasure hunt has had it. As a metaphor for how mental illness wipes you out, time and again, that’s hard to beat.

Fiona Geddes as Kirsty

Fiona Geddes as Kirsty

We get to learn a fair bit about schizoaffective disorder. Medical information is relayed in tones halfway patronising and/or foreign. I couldn’t help wishing for some projected slides with bullet points to do a professional job. More time with Mary, Kirsty, and bipolar boyfriend Patrick, would have been better, especially as mother and Patrick don’t get on. The familiar, homely, strains of ‘Coronation Street’ are almost therapeutic and are certainly ironic.

You’ll like Kirsty because of her honesty and because she is a loving person. Yes, the issue is her Mum’s condition but the story is Kirsty’s. Consider the choices she (& Patrick) have to make regarding children of their own. Genetic counselling gives you fair enough odds but ….

Geddes and director Jessica Beck brought Normal / Madness to the Fringe last year. Now, during Mental Health Awareness Week, it is back in Edinburgh and on tour. It’s on next at The Tron in Glasgow . The charity ‘Rethink Mental Illness’ supports this production, which – forgive me – is a no-brainer. It is a show that is performed with great sympathy that you will take heart from. ‘Help and Hope’ is the message.

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Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 12 May)

Go to ‘Normal / Madness’ at Kidder here

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