Melbourne Fringe 2011

Death in a box…one pussy’s tale!

0 Comments 07 October 2011

A haunting chime sets the scene for Mandie Combe’s ‘Death in a box…one pussy’s tale!’ The chime ringing until Combe’s partner, Tony Johannsen enters with guitar in hand and begins his song; his considered lyrics and strong melodies forming the foundations for the rest of the performance. The actors, Combe and Johannsen, are a real couple, and Combe wrote the piece to offer an insight into the world of mental illness and to thank Johannsen for his ongoing care and support.

With this subject matter on mind, you expect the play to be troubling and dark, but the performance is surprisingly funny. As a sufferer of bipolar disease, Combe mocks the illness, singing out lyrics about suggested treatments…‘Don’t forget to hug a tree, cause if you hug a tree, you get more chi!’ Her frank outlook and raw truth is charming and she dances about the stage switching between her moods with exuberance. Despite this sparkling energy it feels like you’re being held at a distance as the performance progresses, as if walking towards a hidden object while someone yells “warmer!” There are moments, however, when this distance disappears. The disturbing and mystifying nature of mental illness is exposed and these moments are well worth waiting for.

The most compelling and endearing aspect of the performance is Johannsen’s songs. Lingering and affecting, his beautifully rough voice sings original songs that offer the audience a deeper comprehension of the effects of mental illness, not only on the sufferer, but also on their loved ones and carers. Evidently, their commitment to each other is outstanding and perhaps it’s the ‘fairytale’ power of love that shines through here.

‘Death in a box…one pussy’s tale!’ no doubt raises thoughts and questions about mental illness. It’s an informal, beautiful performance that leaves you slightly sad, but ultimately optimistic.

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