Print Room at The Coronet
Reviewed – 14th July 2017
“Jocelyn Pook has beautifully set these stories to music with honesty and care”
‘Hearing Voices’ is an operetta with lyrics derived from conversations and interviews with people with mental health disorders.
We begin in 1906 with seamstress Agnes Richter, who embroidered words all over a jacket, pieced together from scraps (whilst an inmate in a German Asylum). Some of the phrases deciphered from that jacket form the lyrics sung beautifully by Mezze Soprano Melanie Pappenheim, who holds the stage and carefully directs your attention to movement, sound and visuals with her wonderful voice.
We then move through the 20th century, hearing the voices of women who have struggled and coped with their altered lives. Jocelyn Pook is curator and collector of these stories and has beautifully set them to music with honesty and care.
Acknowledging changing attitudes to mental illness, and the ever failing systems in place to ‘help’, the production mixes visual art on screen with evocative music composed by Pook.
The quartet – of whom Jocelyn Pook is one – accompany the voices of the real-life women themselves speaking of their experiences with madness. No two stories are the same as we hear of psychosis & depression, OCD & schizophrenia, hallucination & confusion. But even the wavering stigma and the darkest recesses the mind can claw at are balanced by the comic side of losing touch with reality.
Most of the stories are personal to the composer. Four of the five women in the songs are known to Pook, two are close relatives – her great-aunt Phyllis Williams and her mother, Mary Cecil Pook, who died last year.
When my father was very young his mother suffered post natal depression. It being the 1930s not even ‘the baby blues’ were recognised, and as my 36 year old Grandmother struggled more and more her family rejected her, the authorities didn’t understand her, and she was taken into an asylum where she remained till she died.
She was 98yrs old.
So I guess this work is personal to me too.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
Photography by Zoran S Pejic
is at Print Room at The Coronet until 15th July