Theatre review: Though This Be Madness, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

Though This Be Madness, written & performed by Skye Loneragan
Though This Be Madness, written & performed by Skye Loneragan
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Like Kane Power’s Mental, seen at the Tron last weekend, Skye Loneragan’s new 60-minute solo show is presented by Scotland’s Mental Health Arts Festival, as part of UK Mental Health Awareness Week; and it, too, looks at serious mental illness from the perspective of a loving family member.

Theatre review: Though This Be Madness, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh ***

In this story, Skye’s sister Ophelia has been diagnosed with schizophrenia; but the point of the show is that it sets Ophelia’s diagnosed mental illness alongside the more everyday madness of Skye – who is coping with the sleep-deprived derangement of early motherhood – and of their mother, an ageing, eccentric retired psychiatrist.

So on a set she describes as her “land of lounge-room”, Skye wrestles with the paraphernalia of her own problems – a bouncy inflatable Pilates ball, a baby monitor, a stepladder and a wall full of Post-It Notes designed to assist her addled memory – while conjuring up unforgettable cameos of her sister and mother, and of herself, encountering the madness of everyday life. The lack of any kind of narrative through-line sometimes makes Though This Be Madness hard to follow; fragments of experience come thick and fast, from many angles and in a fairly raw form, unassisted by changes of set, costume or lighting.

Yet Loneragan is such a gifted and engaging performer, both in words and movement, that the quiet integrity of her unadorned staging finally comes to seem like a gift; in a show that talks of madness, but also of how women’s lives, honestly described, always tend to defy the norms of our culture – including our ideas of sanity and exactly what it might look like.