Take a step into the mind of someone with bipolar. It can be up, it can be down, it can be manic or seemingly calm but at least in this situation there’s cake.
Bite production's Crackers sets you as a fly on the wall of a Bipolar Support Group, where four young adults are attempting to come to terms with their reality while coping with the mania of those around them. The group is lead by a David Brent-esque ‘support’ leader Alex (played by Jesse Alston) who coasts through the performance spewing out bouts of offensive non sequiturs and plastering ‘motivational’ posters on both the walls and people around him: “It’s just a bad day, not an ugly life.”
The writer, Georgie Adamson, delves into the dark crevasses of bipolar, depicting four different characters, at four different stages, with four very different lives all dealing with one very debilitating condition. She comments on the way that society views those with mental health issues, often trying to insert their own agenda into the situation with comments such as: “Well my second cousin’s wife has bipolar, so I know what you’re going through. I think his dog had it too.”
Adamson shines a light on the experiences of those who have bipolar in ways that we might not have ever considered. It’s not always about being up and down, or “crazy” as some might put it, often seemingly mundane tasks, such as collecting your medication and dealing with medical professionals with a serious lack of tact can send one into a spiral; or discussing your mental health with strangers on a bus who “are praying for you.”
The acting in the performance was wonderful, especially from Jessica Murphy who played the character of Jessica. Murphy delivered a wholehearted, realistic and gritty portrayal of someone who is masking their issues from those around them and finished the performance off with a scene that leaves your heart thumping.
Madelaine Osborn, who played Mackenzie, portrayed a character in the midst of mania - dramatically emotional and in despair. This was balanced by the seemingly cool, calm and collected Jonah (Reuben Hunt-Thompson), who took on the role of the quiet sufferer.
The final character, Snake, played by Tom Matthews, depicted the attention seeking male who "feeds himself with existential dread." Snake has a penchant for dark poetry slams and while his character brought the humour to the table, he also capped off Adamson's variations of bipolar that she chose to present to the audience: the one in denial, the one in a spiral, the one suffering in silence and the one that needs to be noticed.
Crackers shows that there are many faces of bipolar. It's not about the "crazy" person acting out in public, or someone who can't drag themselves out of bed. It can be the person next to you on the bus, someone you work with, someone you've known for years or someone who you've just met in a pub. Crackers challenges you to think of mental health in a different way because "everyone wants to support bipolar but no one wants to see it."
You can still see Crackers tonight and tomorrow night, 7pm at Redfern's Giant Dwarf Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.