Mighty Heart Theatre explores the stigma around mental health in their performance of What’s The Matter With You. Using verbatim to tell real stories of people between the ages of 18 and 70 through interviews and surveys, they delve deep into the world of mental health.
By breaking down the fourth wall, it’s a performance yet also a conversation with the audience, they inform the audience by opening their eyes to genuine stories about real people.
The performance opens “musical theatre style” with the two young women Lisa- Marie Hoctor and Samantha Edwards that sing a very jazzy and highly patronising song called “What’s The Matter With You” about people who tell others struggling with mental health issues to “suck it up” and “cheer up”.
It continues with a weather woman using the metaphor of weather to explain the sharp changes in mood that can occur, such as the dark rainy clouds representing how depression can overshadow a person’s life. Throughout the production Mighty Heart Theatre use small scenes of both tragedy and comedy to create a performance full of depth.
What I found most potent is the scene about the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee which starts off humorously but as the scene progresses the more startling and raw it becomes. As one of the girls stands centre stage with a tabard on holding a large wooden box that resembles a stage, the other girl stands over at the microphone.
With the use of intricately designed puppets, they use different puppets to represent each mental health disorder. It is cleverly done, they accurately describe the way each issue takes over and consumes the whole body. This whole scene is executed excellently, it is a thought provoking way to enlighten the audience about the real effects of mental illness.
It continues onto a scene where a woman who badly suffers from mental illness is sat in her house and is talking about what she would say if David Cameron was there. She pleads with him, expressing the importance of not cutting the money that goes towards mental health. She explains about how people lose their children and their families all because they are suffering so badly and how cutting the costs it is only going to make it worse. Edwards does this impeccably, she really captures the poignancy of the scene and her acting is so strong and utterly convincing, her performance really connected with every member of the audience.
Another moving scene is when Hoctor plays a young woman who has suffered with both depression and cancer. She is talking about the difference in treatment she got and how the doctors and nurses acted so differently when treating her with each illness. This is a highly important scene that deals with the stigma surrounding mental illness and how people act around it.
The performance ends with a duologue by the two girls as they discuss their experience with mental health, why they are tackling it in the performance and the importance of talking about mental health. They also touch on how in today’s society more people are suffering with mental health issues and a lot of this is due to the impact of social media and how people portray their “perfect life” online.
What’s The Matter With You is an important piece of theatre that successfully balances both comedy and straight acting to capture the real life stories of people affected by mental health. Might Heart Theatre do a tremendous job conveying these stories with emotion and clarity.