The Big reTHINK
Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland
03/10/2012 - 06/10/2012
STAGE SHOW MAKES A STAND FOR MENTAL HEALTH
New Zealand’s creative industries are uniting to remove the mark of shame from mental-health problems. After considering 71 script submissions and holding open auditions, 11 directors, 60 actors, 8 dancers, 12 script-writers, 7 musicians and 10 comedians are now underway with rehearsals for a cross-over theatre show that is set to shift public mind-sets at the same time as it entertains.
The Big reTHiNK opens at Q theatre on the 3rd of October to launch the Like Minds Big reTHiNK international mental-health arts festival and World Mental-Health Awareness Week.
From improvised street theatre outside the front doors, to art installation and music in the foyer to the theatre itself – The Big reTHiNK sets out to create a theatre experience, not a theatre show. The interior of Q theatre is to be shrink-wrapped to create surfaces for visual projections and transform the venue into the ‘inside of madness.’
Approximately 80% of the 100-strong cast has lived experience of recovery from mental unwellness and the remaining 20% have experience supporting a friend or family member – audiences will have no way of knowing who is who, “which is part of our message; people with mental-health challenges are no different from people without them and this show asks us – what’s normal anyway? ” says producer and creative director Taimi Allan of Mind and Body Consultants.
Cast-member Aidee Walker (Nothing Trivial, Outrageous Fortune) says of her involvement “The word depression can be really tricky and people are quick to label…New Zealand has such a ridiculously high suicide rate, it needs to be addressed.” Script-writer Sheree Veysey says “These days, I tend to see it that we’re all vulnerable in different ways… It’s not just something I have to hide.” Comedian Mark Scott knows what it is like to support a friend through mental-health problems and describes how he believes “anything that helps us understand ourselves a little better and be less judgemental of each other…is a good thing.”
In the words of host and comedian Rob Callaghan, The Big reTHiNK “helps open up the eyes of the general public and get rid of stereotypes.” Co-producer Miriam Larsen-Barr adds, “But it does it in the course of entertaining people. At face value, this is simply a killer theatre experience that everyone interested in the arts should see, underneath that are some really important messages that will change people’s lives.”
Plays written by: Dan Tomasulo (USA), Daniel Larsen, Laura Ashton, Lora Keyes, Lynz Wilmshurst, Miriam Barr, Rex McGregor, Ric Colsey (Australia), Taimi Allan, Sheree Veysey, Stewart Allan, Steve Carter.
Directed by: Yee Yang ‘Square’ Lee, Roberto Nascimento, Adrian Frencken, Coco Reed, Benjamin Teh, Lynz Wilmshurst, Georgia J M Giesen, Kristian Larsen, Joselyn Khor, Toni Tippett and Louise Tourelle.
Starring: Aidee Walker, Rob Callaghan, Irene Pink, Chris Brain, Penny Ashton, Justine Smith, Mike Loder, Tarun Mohambhai, Tevita Manukia, Mark Scott, John Carr and more.
The Big reTHiNK runs from 3-6 of October
at Q theatre,
culminating in a Charity Awards Gala and the announcement of the winners of The Big reTHiNK People’s Choice Awards.
An open dress rehearsal on October 2nd provides an opportunity to attend for those who may not usually be able to go to the theatre.
Informative, enjoyable and moving
Review by Adey Ramsel 04th Oct 2012
It did cross my mind how an event such as this could work as a fundraiser, what with the simple but constant problem of budgets, but the comment was made during the evening that this was an awareness raiser – and as that, this show works. It works well.
It can’t fail to make its audience aware of mental health issues as there is nothing else on offer but knowing that’s what you’re there for makes this far from a ‘too much information’ event. In fact quite early on you become intrigued as to how we’re going to be entertained. How many ways are there to make us ‘aware’ of the same thing?
Theatre, dance, stand up, visual art, song – it’s all at the Q for a good cause and the producers have managed to create a smart, clever piece of variety that ticks the ‘inform and entertain’ boxes and makes you think.
Rob Callaghan opens the show, thankfully telling us he’s not there as an MC to spoon feed us, and briefs us on the evening. Mental Health issues are subjective. They are what they are to each individual. A description for one is a degrading label for another – in fact writing this I feel that I’m going to use the wrong words somewhere. Callaghan, though, diffuses our fears immediately with a show of hands from ‘the nutters amongst us’, and quickly explains his own experience, thereby giving himself permission to label. And we’re off.
The performers are dedicated and display a mature, professional attitude. The mini plays speed along, with various degrees of skill and finesse, interspersed with stand up.
The writings range from amusing to brilliant, from direct assaults on our pre-conceived ideas to subtle and creative musings. All aim to dispel any myths and stereotypes we may have carried with us into the theatre.
N.O.T (Negatively Orientated Therapy) is a particular powerful satire on positive/negative thinking and produces two stand out performances from Aidee Walker and Andrew Munro.
Sheree Veysey makes her mark as a writer of talent (and of the night) with two pieces, Terribly Unwell and Making Sense; the later co written with Laura Ashton, being a well executed, thought-provoking backward glance at ourselves. Excellent.
Mature rapper John Carr surprises more than a few of us (bang: there goes another stereotype) with his easy style and lyrics and Tevita Manukia does well with the graveyard shift at the conclusion of the show. He manages to keep it fresh, and keep us laughing, long after many shows would have died and begged to be put to bed.
The resident session band made up of Stewart Allan, Dylan Elise, Owen Woodward and David Bamford provides songs and link music throughout the night.
The evening is set in and around a design by Malcolm Dale, (built by Solomon Briscoe). A puzzle of chairs and tables mazed into a model of a brain is inspired and a piece of art in itself. (This would have got my tick in the audience choice awards).
It’s unclear who is responsible for logistics for the running of the show and its order but if I mention Taimi Allan (Producer/Creative Director) and Alice Kirker (Stage Manager), I’m sure I have it covered.
There was love and support last night for those up on stage giving their time and talent. It would take too long to mention all fifty plus performers and those involved backstage and would merely dilute the effect they had on us by listing them for the sake of it. They should all be proud and take it to heart when I say the evening as a whole was superb, enjoyable and moving – a result unobtainable unless they all cared.
So did they dispel myths? Did they explode stereotypes? Did we all leave thinking differently? In a way, yes, we all left with it on our mind, but – and this is a criticism of the human race in general – it won’t be until mental health affects us directly on a personal level that many of us will actually take that next step towards education on the subject. This observation was made last night but again it won’t sink in until it hits home. ’Twas ever thus.
Special mention to Producer and Creative Director Taimi Allan who not only added her vocals to the live music but will have breathed a sigh of relief at last night’s audience reaction. Her commitment and talent to the cause shine through and deserves a round of applause of her own.
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