“The biggest barrier in my life is me”
There’s something mildly ironic about a play about being caught up in the world of depression being staged at a theatre called the Hope. For in Cancel The Sunshine, Maya Thomas’ young protagonist is living pretty much without it, the tendrils of mental illness extinguishing the light she yearns to reach for as the damage of the past and the difficulties of the present weigh heavily upon her.
Writer Chantelle Dusette pulls uncompromisingly from her own experience of depression and so the breath-taking intensity of the monologue speaks with an authentic voice, and it is one which is powerful and poetic but pummeling and punishing too. Her main character is determined to present a put-together image to the outside world but inside she’s somersaulting, swooping between manic highs and lows, struggling to deal with even the most seemingly innocuous of small details.
Director and designer Scott Le Crass correctly takes absolutely no prisoners in the forceful directness of his approach here and in Thomas, has an astounding conduit to the ferocious energy and crushing anxiety that underscores Dusette’s writing. Among the cluttered debris of her fortress-like bedroom, Thomas paces anxiously in preparation for maybe going out, pins the audience to their chairs with her searching questioning, curls up anguishedly as her demons win out. It is a frankly amazing performance that finds moments of levity, even humour, particularly when enacting two-way conversations.
Dusette’s writing errs towards the densely poetic, fragments of text repeating and refracting as its stream of consciousness mutates, it’s almost too much at times, both to take in and to perform one feels, the challenge it poses almost insurmountable (which I suppose is akin to the actual experience of depression). Johnny Atto’s video work further disorients the picture with a nightmarish dreamscape, Jai Morjaria’s light and Kirsty Gillmore’s sound also working well to give an all-encompassing feel to the production that isn’t easily forgettable. Viscerally brutal but in the best possible way – hugely recommended.