There is a woman standing alone on stage. She greets us with the words ‘I love the way you have selective hearing’. This is the opening of SpeakUp Theatre’s LOVE (Watching Madness). What follows is a bold exploration of mental illness, and how truly complex the relationship between mother and daughter can be. The wounds inflicted by a mothers battle with bipolar disorder are visceral but tactfully peppered with moments of tender connection.
Isabelle Kabban, our writer and performer, navigates the space of a one-woman show with confidence, clarity and emotion. This is an autobiographical piece, and you can feel the passion radiating from Kabban’s courageous performance. The show illustrates the performers’ fraught relationship with her mother, switching cleverly between dialogue with a therapist, conversations with her own mother, and jarring movement sequences. The way Kabban uses her singular voice to portray multiple characters and emotions is genuinely stunning.
Whilst the script is serious and emotional, there are moments of softness and humour, made more moving by astute direction and engaging acting. But the best part of this show is how the director, Ruth Anna Phillips, has chosen to showcase how isolating mental illness can feel. We see Kabban’s gestures become frantic, which culminates in an explosion of electronic dance music and strobe lighting, Kabban suddenly dances outrageously and violently, in a sort of cathartic release. Phillips shows us through movement how mental illness can make one feel completely out of touch with reality.