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Upon arriving at BATS Theatre a couple of weeks ago, for the performance of Well?, I immediately felt comfortable upon entering The Heyday Dome. The set design, sheets and mesh hanging across the majority of the back wall, welcomed you into the space. The space was almost empty except for a white bath in the centre of the stage. What was most special about the space was the lighting by Tony Black; it felt dream-like, with a great beam of light hitting the bath and a purple tone across the stage. I felt very tranquil, considering knowing the show’s content was going to be deep.
Well? is a performance shedding light on a rather personal and overlooked topic: mental illness. Director and writer Zoe Joblin combined thirty interviews about the experience of living with mental illness, which Courtney Rose Brown, Annabella Gamboni, and Aimee Smith then performed. These stories were interwoven into three separate narratives, occasionally interacting together.
As the audience lights dimmed and the show was about to begin, the three women came running in one by one, with a spotlight on each of them as they looked out at the audience. Using their real names as their character names, Aimee began to speak about mental illness, followed by the other two. I was surprised by the style of their entrance; I expected the entrance to follow the warm and inviting experience created by the set. I had expected the audience to slowly be exposed to understanding what wellness and unwellness is and feels like. It seemed we were being thrown right into the deep end.
Nevertheless, throughout the performance each character gets to share their stories. These are told through movement, words, and sounds, and their only occasional interactions reveal the support they have for each other. The support they showed was beautiful to watch. There were moments of playfulness as well as panic attacks and talks of suicide both together and individually, but it was clear that they were always listening to each other in some way, showing their support for one another.
There is a climactic scene where Courtney Rose Brown kneels right in front of the audience, rearranging jars, while Aimee talks and Annabella moves around—all individual, yet totally together. The sound of the jars grows, and Brown’s breathing gets heavier, as the other character’s voices and movements increase too. I was sat right in front of Brown, making this scene even more powerful. All I wanted to do was get up and give them all a hug.
The play shows the audience that wellness and unwellness will always be present, and that we all experience and deal with our thoughts and feelings in different ways, and that this is all okay. Another scene that stood out, one that has stuck with me, was when they spoke about what they do when they are anxious or down. These were things that the 30 people interviewed would have mentioned; from listening to podcasts to entering a space, putting your hands on your hips, and saying, “I’m a powerful woman”—things that myself, and many others, would have made note of for the future. Anyone could have watched Well? and enjoyed it and walked away with something. It was a beautiful show and did indeed shed light on this often disregarded topic. I am sure the play will be back, and when it is, get along to see it because it is well (pun intended) worth the watch!
WHAT’S ON THIS WEEK?
BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage
Sep 6-10, 6:30pm
The Next Best Thing
BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome
Sep 1-10, 7:00pm
BATS Theatre, The Studio
Sep 10, 9:00pm
A new monthly improv show where three teams face off in a battle for glory, honour, and the audience’s favour.
Aug 27 – Sep 10, 7:30pm