Theatre review: Amy Conway's Super Awesome World

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Amy Conway's Super Awesome World is, on the surface, a show about video-games.

Summerhall (Venue 26)

****

It starts with a TED Talk-style presentation on the psychological benefits of gaming, complete with quoted statistics from academic research journals that link videogame-playing with resilience against degenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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    This is less dry and scholarly than it sounds – Conway is an engaging performer, and she breaks up the dense chunks of information with colourful audience participation and reminiscences of a childhood spent in front of the Nintendo – but as the show progresses, videogames become less a focal point for discussion and more a frame for tackling Conway’s real subject: mental health.

    It’s not a jarring transition – in fact, audience members are in the midst of helping Conway complete various challenges when it becomes apparent how high the stakes are, from Conway’s point of view in any case.

    A virtual sidekick, initially introduced as a wry parody of helpful-but-annoying in-game tutorials, subtly morphs into an inane aphorism dispenser whose advice will be wearily familiar to those with experience of mental health issues: ‘Have you tried going for a walk?’, ‘Chin up! It’s not the end of the world!’ and so on. (On a side note, the technical presentation – all 8-bit bleeps, blocky pixels and chunky scrolling text boxes – is perfectly conceived and executed.)

    Having successfully created an atmosphere of self-defeating anxiety and doubt, Conway turns to her experiences as a Samaritans volunteer: a series of quiet, emotionally raw phonecalls that form an effective contrast to the polished and upbeat introductory spiel.

    The ending is definitely not of the hugs-and-crying variety, but it does offer reassurance and comfort in its own way – in describing depression not as a binary yes-or-no, but as a spectrum that we all suffer differently – one that we needn’t suffer alone.

    Until 27 August. Today 5:40pm.