Review: Mental As Everything & Scarred For Life—Double Bill

13 August 2018

Chapel off Chapel has played host to a one-night-only Cabaret Double-Feature. Hailing from Adelaide, Josh Belperio offers up his show Scarred for Life as the first act, while Damon Smith and Adam Coad bring their show Mental as Everything along for the second half. The result is a two hour exploration of mental health that transports the audience from kitchens to hospital rooms, ambitiously exploring Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder along the way.

While both shows deal with the same theme, using the same medium, in the same space, with the same audience, their approaches could not be more different. Belperio takes his audience through a linear, personal narrative, beginning with a traumatic bike accident that lands him in hospital fearing for his life. In contrast, Smith and Coad discuss their experiences with mental illness in a more thematic fashion: exchanging songs with each other in order to weave together a cohesive picture of their experiences.

Furthermore, these two acts are radically different in their style. Belperio constructs his world of burst spleens and fluttering hospital gowns out of show tunes, lightning fast puns, and glinting lyrical word play. Smith and Coad follow, with brooding, smokey jazz; indie-folk songs; and a more casual, banter-based approach to commentary. Despite—or perhaps because of—their differences, the acts pair together beautifully: complimenting each other and creating a rich musical tapestry.

However, one thing remains consistent: both of these performances are brutally honest. With this double-bill, you don’t get a glitzy show; there are no sequins, feather boas, long cigarettes, or any of the paraphernalia that typically springs to mind when one hears the word ‘cabaret’. Instead, the shows are sparse, simple, and authentic. Each of the performers invites the audience into intensely personal moments: some of these are embarrassing, some of them are funny, some of them are flat-out terrifying.

Ultimately, audiences will come away with a better understanding of mental illnesses and what it means to live with them. Sitting in the dark, watching these shows, was an unmistakable sense of connection amongst the audience: alternating between moments of sympathy and of recognition. You either come away from these shows knowing more about mental health, or you leave thinking “Oh, so it’s not just me who feels like this”.

Either way, this is important work taking important steps towards the destigmatisation of mental illness.

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