Balancing Acts, Camden People's Theatre

Over the past 20 years there has been a growing trend within the Arts to explore mental health as  a viable subject matter, in particular clinical depression. Ever since Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis in 1999, depression's taboo status has been invalidated. More recent projects such as Bryony Kimmings' Fake It 'Til You Make It have shown that not only can this subject be talked about openly, but that through dialogue hope can be found for those who cope with melancholia on a daily basis.

With this in mind, Kaleido Film Collective, and Claire Stone and Katherine Vince of theatre group Feral Foxy Ladies have collaborated on a related project. Balancing Acts takes verbatim content from six individuals who live and cope with depression, and moulds it into an audio/visual experience incorporating filmed footage and physical theatre.

One of the original aspects of Balancing Acts is the disclosure of coping mechanisms for bouts of depression. For example, one woman finds water to be therapeutic, as time bathing in still water private provides solace from the rest of the household and the world. Conversely diving and swimming in open water is liberating, letting one's worries be swept away. Then in the example of one man, sex is a way of pushing back thoughts of death, the classic Freudian response of  the lifeforce's response to annihilation. In between these extreme responses, activities such as painting and singing were also highlighted.

The one thing that's stuck with me from Balancing Acts is the folktale that one of the six interviewees recalls regarding the impermanence of emotions. A king appoints an impossible task:  to find a 'magic' ring that if a happy man looks at it he becomes sad, but if a sad man looks at it he becomes happy. After many months one is found with an inscription on the inside of the band: "This too shall pass." The message of the story is nothing last forever. Happiness  –  something that all human beings strife for is impossible to maintain indefinitely. Life always has a way of shaking things up. But by the same token, given enough time, feelings of despondency pass away too. Knowing that ebb-and-flow of emotions are a constant thing is the key to maintaining one's balance: everything has its time.

© Michael Davis 2016


Balancing Acts will performed at the VAULTS Festival in January 2017


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