This touching play written by and starring, Chloe Yates, is a beautifully simple story about an agonisingly complex topic.
Following a ternary structure, Sam (Josh Cole), opens and closes the piece with his release from the mental health facility he has been living in for the last few months. We never truly find out what is wrong with Sam although bear witness to two panic attacks it is safe to assume were brought on by the death of his brother in a car accident. He also speaks frankly with fellow patient, Mags (Yates), about how he has developed risky behaviour because he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies.
These suicidal thoughts are touched upon a few times in Mental, patients causing an alarm to sound and red lights symbolic of danger to flash if they get too close to the metaphorical edge.
Also on the ward with Sam and Mags are Claudia (Saskia Wraith) who Mags sees as an unlikely ‘inmate’ with her middle class, privately educated, perfect family set-up; Megan (Jasmine Sandhu) who is perhaps the one character hole in the plot not giving much for the audience to go on; Milo, clearly troubled and played perfectly by constantly on edge Arran Sheikh, and Rosie (Phoebe Lerner) who adds a lighter-hearted tone if there is any to be found with her constant staring and abrupt responses.
The story centres around Mags who is about to leave the facility having reached her 18th birthday. She will now come under the care of the adult mental health services. And this is deeply personal for Yates who herself spent some time in an adolescent’s psychiatric ward before being moved to an adult ward, which she describes in an interview with The Fountain as being “very traumatic” and as impacting her recovery “hugely.”
Knowing that only makes the play more moving and explains the oh-so-accurate representation of being trapped in a hospital when one is so young and being trapped in one’s own thoughts with a mental health condition.
It is a beautiful work which shows that you don’t need to do anything complicated to make a theatrical impact and the soundscape adds to this, again nothing fancy, just perfectly placed.