Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe 2015

This is a laughing matter: an interview with Isobel Marmion, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2015

0 Comments 15 August 2015

When it comes to mental illness, creating any sort of representation can be a risky business. Not only do you have to be accurate, but you also have to ensure that the audience is able to understand it. Some artists may use a conventional method such as a dramatic play or an open forum to explore mental illness. However, writer, producer and actor, Isobel Marmion has chosen a different approach in her upcoming show, People Piss in Here, which will be part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival: she is addressing the issue through humour.

Marmion is producing the show through her theatre company, Crowtown, which she founded with creative partner Jessica McKerlie. “We trained together at Charles Sturt University,” she says. “I then moved to the UK where I put on a show. Jessica happened to be there and she was like, ‘Hey, we should do something together’. So we got other actors in the UK and produced a play called Bonk!, which was adapted from a book about science and sex. We had similar interests and we wanted to talk about things people don’t usually discuss.”

Marmion and McKerlie’s latest play, People Piss in Here, takes place in a public restroom where the protagonist, Jo, is having a panic attack after running out of toilet paper. “I was doing a play in Edinburgh, and I was by myself in a crowd, which caused me to have a panic attack,” Marmion says of her inspiration. “I then went into an alley, but there was no exit, so I was stuck for three hours. Eventually, my friends found me and they did weird things to help me get past. Later on, I thought how funny that situation was, and that other people could be able to laugh at it.”

Marmion also takes inspiration from other people’s experiences of mental illness, including that of a friend, her parents and comedian, actor and writer, Stephen Fry. “There’s a quote of his I’ll always remember; that mental illness is like the weather. You’ll have sunny days and cloudy days. It always changes.”

Marmion’s plays tend to be more humorous than dramatic. “There is a lot of value in dramatic theatre,” she says. “However, if you want a conversation with the audience, humor helps make people more comfortable.”

Marmion thinks that that there are now more performances and media forms covering mental illness than there were a few years ago. “People are more open to it, however there are still stigmas when it’s spoken about. Back then it wasn’t as accurate, respectful or honest.”

She agrees that performers and writers who cover mental illness are responsible for representing it truthfully. When asked if they also have the responsibility to address the stigma behind it, she responded, “definitely”.

“It’s not just mental illness,’ she says, “but any important issue. We have the power to discuss it and help audiences understand it.’

People Piss in Here will run from 29 September – 4 October  at 10pm at The Butterfly Club, Downstairs, 5 Carson Pl, Melbourne. Tickets are available at or call (03) 9660 9666.

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