Fringe World Perth 2016

i’m not alright, Fringe World Perth 2016

0 Comments 19 February 2016


Presented by Chaos Ensemble

The Parrott House

Review by Jessica Clausen

Through the mess of undeserved social stigmas and the turning of blind eyes on issues of mental illness and suicide, Perth actor and writer Daley King raises the curtain and turns on the lights in i’m not alright, managing to avoid isolating audiences while still addressing the topics head on.

Entering the Parrott House theatre, you are confronted with a man sitting at the front of the seats, wearing a t-shirt with a drearily painted smiling face and a blood-smeared bandage over his mouth with the word ‘smile’. The scene is highly unnerving, and as the lights dim and everyone settles, he stands up and walks slowly through the crowd, flashing a bright torch in the faces of his audiences, who now recognize the man to be their protagonist.

Daley starts off with a monologue, explaining his intention to commit suicide. Lyrically describing his fatal drink of choice (combining bleach and cough medicine as a few examples), he is then interrupted by another voice, calling him out on his ‘poetic bullshit’. The voice, an alter ego to Daley, is portrayed by a puppet. The felt doppelganger hides Daley’s self-criticism behind an American accent, a sarcastic tone and a light-hearted attitude, reflecting the hidden self-criticism of those suffering mental illness.

It is this snarky puppet and Daley’s self-deprecating humour that makes i’m not alright so affecting. Steering clear of stereotyping bipolar disorder by portraying it as messy, complicated and at times a little funny, Daley presents a genuine look of an issue ignored too often.

On paper, a soundtrack made up of upbeat jazz music sounds like it could be discomforting. Yet the startling juxtaposition between, for example, a proud confident voice speaking over soulful jazz and the reading of a suicide rather instead gave emphasis to the show’s confronting themes.

And then there is the storytelling. Daley goes from monologue, to conversing with his puppet, to re-enacting past memories, to speaking, to voice over. All this he does so with ease. There is not a dull moment through the 50-minute show, made all the more impressive by virtue of the fact King is facing the audience alone. Combining passionate vocals and descriptive monologue, the show is raw, charged and powered by an immense and underlying empathy.

I’m not alright is dark humour at its finest. The self-deprecating, self-aware humour layered over such an honest and serious topic creates an accessibility that is uncommon in the discussion of mental illness. King’s performance comes from an ultimately bleak place and that is what makes it so unique and admirable. This isn’t the type of show you will find yourself laughing about after with friends; but it is a show that will leave you with a more open mind and greater sense of understanding.

i’m not alright runs to February 21 at The Parrott House in Northbridge. Tickets available here

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