Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

21/02/2012 - 25/02/2012

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

15/03/2012 - 17/03/2012

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

Dunedin Fringe 2012

Production Details

Be Glad You’re Neurotic

Be Glad You’re Neurotic is a one-man show that is intended as a light-hearted and comedic look into the condition of neurosis in the 21st century: how it manifests itself, how many people claim to be neurotic, and what can be done about it.

The story charts the narrator’s own experience of buying a book called Be Glad You’re Neurotic from an op-shop, and discovering at the same time that his girlfriend intends to leave him, partly because she thinks he is too neurotic.

This sets the narrator on a journey to discover what neurosis means, through research and his own experience.

The journey of the piece is that of the narrator’s love affair with the book, from infatuation, to uncertainty, through to an eventual disillusionment. Which isn’t surprising, since the book was written in 1939, and most of what it has to say is quite ludicrous.

The audience should relate to it, partly because most of the experiences described in the show have happened to most people at some stage, from relationship breakups, to attacks of melancholia, to regrets over the past; but these particular ones are perhaps more ‘neurotic’ than most.

Be Glad You’re Neurotic
Gryphon Theatre, 21-25 Feb, 8pm, duration 50 minutes.
Tickets: $15, $12 concession

Philip Braithwaite – writer/performer
Philip Braithwaite is an award-winning playwright and theatre practitioner. Amongst his credits are the BBC World Service/British Council International Radio Playwriting Award 2001, the Sony Award for Radio Drama and the Massey University Cultural Award. His work has been performed in New Zealand, Australia and Europe, and he has collaborated with devising groups from the Royal Court Theatre in London and the BBC, and the highly acclaimed SEEyD theatre company. He has also worked as a teacher at Massey University, Victoria University and the Wellington Performing Arts Centre (WPAC).

Nigel Edgecombe – director
Nigel Edgecombe is a director, actor and teacher. Nigel has adjudicated at Regional level for the National Shakespeare Festival, and last year at the Trans Tasman Theatre Festival; he performs whenever he can, and his directorial work has been seen in several different countries.

50 mins

Somewhat pointless?

Review by Jennifer Aitken 16th Mar 2012

Neurotic people are better than ordinary people. To be normal is to be mundane. The neurotic thinks deeply about life. One must harness one’s neurosis and use it like a superpower! This is what you will learn if attend Be Glad You’re Neurotic at the Dunedin Fringe Festival.

Be Glad You’re Neurotic is a one-man show that claims to take a comedic look into the condition of neurosis in the 21st century: how it manifests itself, how many people are neurotic, and what can be done about it.

The narrative that drives this discussion maps the narrator’s experience of buying a book called Be Glad You’re Neurotic by Dr Louis E Bisch, just before he discovers that his girlfriend is breaking up with him, partly because she thinks he is too neurotic.

Bookending the live seminar-style performance, complete with PowerPoint slides, are short black-and-white video clips, which despite their anachronistic qualities are the most amusing part of the show. While discussing a book written in 1939, in the year 2012, I am unsure as to why Phil Braithwaite feels the need to evoke the ‘Public Service Announcement’ style of film-making made famous in the 1950s by such clips as Duck and Cover (YouTube it). But he does, and I enjoy it.

Throughout Be Glad You’re Neurotic Braithwaite tries to convince us that to be neurotic is trendy; supposedly an ailment of the middle classes. And I think perhaps he believes this a little too deeply. The mere existence of this show confirms to me that Braithwaite clearly thinks it is a trendy topic, and thus he spends an hour trying to convince us that he himself is neurotic and therefore quite cool.

This piece is very subject-heavy and I think the majority of Braithwaite’s energy is invested in remembering the incessant verbal onslaught he has written for himself. Consequently I find him difficult to connect to; I have no empathy for him or understanding of his plight. 

As I begin to reach the limits of my patience with his ramblings, Braithwaite informs us that ‘neurotic’ is in fact a somewhat out-dated term, one that has been superseded by a number of more specific conditions – anxiety, obsession, depression etc. So what are we left with? We leave the theatre having endured a frankly clichéd and unimaginatively staged seminar on a topic that is out-dated and dare I say meaningless.

What little faith I still have in Braithwaite crumbles away as he confirms to us that this piece of theatre is indeed somewhat pointless. 


Phil Braithwaite March 19th, 2012

I mean ... really? ... I mean, I wouldn't normally comment, but ... really? Trying to convince people I'm cool? Who is this person?

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Normal neuroses

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 23rd Feb 2012

Be Glad You’re Neurotic is a simple “tragic comedy of 21st century living, and a book on how to take care of those niggling neuroses.”

It is a sort of comic Power Point presentation as well as an hour-long monologue about the narrator (Phil Braithwaite) and his discovery in a second-hand bookshop of Dr. Louis E. Bisch’s “seminal text of the 1930s” whose title seems to offer him some hope that he is in fact normal.

You’ve guessed it: the book’s revelations only lead to even more reasons for fuelling the narrator’s neuroses about sex, dreams, god, life, his girlfriend, her helmeted new boyfriend, and a donkey. He decides that neurotic means psychotic-lite and he’s just like everyone else.

However, the show never makes clear whether it’s a tragi-comedy or a comedy because we never get to care for the narrator who remains a Woody Allen-like figure rambling on about himself but without Allen’s saving grace of flights of comic absurdity and deadpan wit.


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Needs less pacing and better pacing

Review by John Smythe 22nd Feb 2012

With a declared role model like Woody Allen, it’s surprising Phil Braithwaite’s monologue about being neurotic doesn’t have us laughing out loud more. Not that there’s not the odd guffaw on opening night – quite a few in fact – but mostly we smile at the way he interrogates his own life in relation to Dr Louis E Bisch’s seminal 1939 book, Be Glad You’re Neurotic.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, I hasten to add, lest Braithwaite add this to the long list of things to worry – or do I mean obsess? – about. Be Glad You’re Neurotic is an hour well spent enquiring into a fascinating topic that is wittily explored, explicated and expounded – in relation to his ex (if that’s not a spoiler).

On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that Joseph Harper was funnier with Honey, and his bicycle shows – his Bikes I’ve Known versus Girls I’ve Fallen In Love With and The Boy and the Bicycle – shows last year. Both he and Allen trade in ‘comedy of anguish’ and that’s what I’d call this show too. Odious comparisons? Perhaps. But for me the comparing adds a whole new level of interest.

Harper connects directly with his audience, establishing an edgily friendly relationship that carries through to the substantive show. Braithwaite starts and ends in the dark, talking to his operator (& director) Nigel Edgecombe, and never makes genuine eye-contact with his audience.  I suspect he is working at remembering the dense text he has created for himself and has yet to relax and truly talk to us. When he does, it will make a difference.

The other possibility – which could be more discombobulating than any other – is that Braithwaite is not genuinely neurotic, to which the rider must be added (thanks to Braithwaite’s ‘in the field’ research) that ‘neurotic’ may in itself be a passé term, superseded by a plethora of more specific conditions, each of which may or may not be conducive to getting more laughs in live performance (PhD topic, anyone?).  

An amusing black & white movie purporting to be Bisch himself – and ingeniously disguised Braithwaite? – opens the show and sets the premise: ‘normal’ is dull while ‘neurotic’ is interesting. The live performance that follows – punctuated with often witty images – sets Braithwaite’s contemporary life and relationship with his girlfriend against the contents of Bisch’s book, which he happened across randomly but may never have acquired, let alone read, had it not been for his girlfriend.

It all plays out in a steady flow of words. Braithwaite often paces aimlessly – yet consistently with the condition he is discussing – but pacing as in rhythmical and vocal light and shade, not to mention breaking up the nature of the delivery, could make it all much more entertaining (cf. Harper). He does use one idiosyncratic prop (apart from the book), and he does change position – sitting, standing, pacing, lying – to vary the visual landscape yet the feel of a steady flow of words remains.

The question of where we sit on the normal-to-psychotic spectrum is probably one that concerns us all from time to time, and the changes in socio-psychological perceptions over the last 70-plus years are also germane, so there is plenty in Be Glad You’re Neurotic to keep any self-aware person interested.

But the question I am left with is, in its current form, would it work just as well as printed prose illustrated with the odd image? To improve its quality as a live theatre piece, we need to be able to relate to – empathise with – a fully present person who is truly sharing their experience in comedy-of-anguish performance.  


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