Theatre Review: Life is no Laughing Matter, Summerhall Techube, Edinburgh

Demi Nandhra asks troubling questions about depression
Demi Nandhra asks troubling questions about depression
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Churchill’s  depression was his “black dog”.

Demi Nandhra’s is a double-sided bean bag, and what she does with it is the best physical representation of depression I have seen. It ought to be taught in schools, to get others to open up, though the rest of the show would give any teacher pause.

This is a highly personal show, but one which leaves us questioning what is constructed and what is true, and whether it should be on stage or in the therapy room. The story of a South Asian woman in the mental health labyrinth, it is bitterly angry and expertly crafted, with gifted theatrical surprises, including in a fine rant on depression which I won’t spoil.

Demi plays herself, as does her partner Aaron, her stage foil, sturdy and silent on his laptop. As she says, “I don’t care if Aaron doesn’t want to be here, I’m ill and I need him.” The play portrays her demand for a cure, from medication to grandma’s holy water, the tickbox system (“How anxious/depressed/suicidal are you, on a scale of one to ten?”), exposes the history of mental health in the family, and asks dangerous questions about suicide.

Read More: Theatre Review: Who Cares, Summerhall (Venue 26), Edinburgh
The artist and performer Selina Thompson says the show “zooms right in on the personal and charges out into the political” and there are echoes of Thompson’s work on the politics of identity, as the young Asian woman prays not to get an old, white, male GP. The piece asks how you can trust doctors, or common sense, who you blame, and what comes first, joblessness or depression. It also asks whether a warm puppy is the answer to it all.

Yoko the white dog is the stage trick that gives this show an extra star, particularly when he doesn’t jump the hurdle he is supposed to and Life is no Laughing Matter actually gets laughs.

But be warned: this show is deeply troubling, a provocative but very much not an easy hour.

Until 18 August. Today 1pm. ****

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