Review: ★★★★ LOVE (Watching Madness), VAULT Festival

Caring for someone with a mental illness can have a knock on effect on your own mental health. As much as we love our friends and family, it can be difficult to cater to their needs, especially without an official diagnosis or professional help, despite how much love we have for them. Isabelle Kaban writes and performs LOVE (Watching Madness) about her relationship with her mum, who was recently diagnosed with bipolar.

Kabban does a great job at highlighting an issue that is more relevant than ever from a different stance. Despite being a one-woman show, Kabban illustrates a duo experiencing this, rather than the normal focus on mental health as a singular experience.

Kabban flicks between her experiences growing up, her experience in a therapist’s room and her mother’s own experiences. She tries to make it as clear as possible as we move between these different realms; but at times the movement confuses this, as does the symbolistic water tubs.

Regardless of this, Kabban’s writing has beautiful poetic notes that shine through. Her reflection on familial love, despite the odds, is nuanced yet poignant: which contrasts with the sobering moments of her mum during a depressive episode.

With such a heavy focus on mental health recently, the final line stands out and sticks with you: “I love the way you open the curtains for me, I wish I could do the same for you”. Following this, SpeakUp Theatre make sure to call out mental health charities, as well as offering their own ears at the bar – a lovely touch.

Through further development, LOVE (Watching Madness) could firmly establish itself as the front runner for art exploring this aspect of mental health. Still, LOVE (Watching Madness) really hits you in the gut with Kabban’s eloquent and emotional prose.

Niamh Flynn

Niamh Flynn
Niamh Flynn

Niamh Flynn has been involved in youth theatres and school productions from a young age, and studied Literature & Drama at university. Niamh has always had a keen interest in theatre both in an on stage and off stage capacity. Working for an advertising agency; she loves that Upper Circle allows her to keep in touch with her creative side outside of work, whilst providing her the opportunity to see lots of different styles of theatre.


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