Zöe Murtagh and Tory Copeland have created a safe space for sufferers of anxiety at Summerhall. Strewn in pastel coloured cards and bright yellow marigolds, Sacré Blue offers a warm and lighthearted look at mental health and ways to combat it.
Murtagh does not claim to be teaching non-sufferers about anxiety. The piece reads more like an instruction manual for the ill. Its descriptions of physical symptoms explain the science behind panic attacks, and help anxious people in the audience feel that they are not alone or mad but part of an ordinary community.
Breaking the fourth wall to talk about the performance’s development and other acts at the Fringe is a nice touch. Murtaugh seems less like a performer and more like a genuine person here to help. The audience trusts her attempts to bring us together, readily joining in with the gentle interactive moments that she has prepared. One moment that could use improvement is Murtaugh’s costume change halfway through. To pass the time she discusses jokes told by kids. While this does give us a greater insight into her character, it seems a little irrelevant to the rest of the piece.
Some of the props used are a little awkward too. Murtaugh’s repeated sips from her cup of tea distract from her words more than add to them. Her monologues would be effective enough on their own, and do not need extra embellishment. That said, the cloth used to parody artistic portrayals of anxiety is a great comic addition. It helps keep the tone light while discussing such complex subject matter.
Whilst it might seem counterproductive to tackle anxiety by setting an agitated tone onstage, the piece feels like it lacks a proper look at the condition’s darker moments. The words are all there, but Murtaugh’s delivery could use some variation in speed and pitch to get across the agitation that plagues anxious thinkers. The moment when she throws coloured cards all over the stage whilst naming anxious thoughts is refreshing. It quickens the pace and reflects well the chaotic thought patterns that can bring on a panic attack. A more varied tempo might also help emphasise the piece’s poetic quality. Murtaugh and Copeland have chosen to devise a spoken word monologue that uses rhythm and rhyme, and it would be good to see these techniques exploited a little more.
Sacré Blue is unique in the gentle and uplifting tone that it adopts to talk about mental health. By the end of the show the audience feels as if they have made a sweet new friend in Murtaugh, and leave with an air or having been comforted.