VAULT Festival 2017



The Vaults Theatre Studio

4 February 2017



“She’s had so many episodes, she could release a box set”


This one man show, running as part of VAULT Festival isn’t your usual fare. Abusive answerphone messages, disturbing medical notes read aloud, talk of suicide attempts and deep emotional trauma. Yet this isn’t some thought provoking work of fiction. This is real life; Mental is a biographical work created by Kane Powers about his own mother, Kim’s life affected by mental illness.

Kane uses song, a cacophony of sound effects and factual material from Kim’s medical history to fill an incredible hour with. It’s a sixty minute insight into what mental illness is really like for those both suffering from it, and those having to deal with the day to day consequences of being close to that person.

At times deliberately disjoint and skittish, each moment is a reflection of the actuality of mental illness for Kim. One thing Kane mentions, which I hope the audience pick up on, is ‘It’s different for everyone’ – mental illness, and I speak from personal experience, is indeed that – it’s a different nightmare for each person living with it.

People understand a broken leg, each person who has a broken leg is near enough suffering in the same way – their leg is broken. You cannot do the same for mental illness; doctors may give a diagnosis, for Kane’s mum it was ‘bipolar’, yet most patients aren’t text book cases. In Kim’s case having bipolar means getting the manic highs but not the depressive episodes.

Kane’s performance is as you’d expect, at times harrowing to watch, yet it is littered with light heartedness. Mental illness can be funny, albeit sometimes in a gallows humour type way. My favourite line (maybe paraphrased slightly) is Kane stating that Kim has now had so many episodes, ‘she could release a box set’.

Mental illness is very much in the news at the moment. Any publicity resulting in greater understanding is good, but as a signed up member to the MH club myself, publicity and well meaning celebrities, often over simplify. Kane doesn’t do this. His show portrays that mental health at times makes no sense, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach (the song around medication was spot on), and that understanding has a much more beneficial and long lasting effect for many sufferers.

I have some annoyance with some celebs who shout they have ‘depressions and stress’, yet do it such a way that it coincides with whatever they are currently promoting. They miraculously make a ‘recovery’ after a couple of weeks in The Priory and only ‘relapse’ when a career dip makes it beneficial. If you have mental illness you don’t sell your photo story to Hello, and I don’t think any mental health condition can be ‘cured’ in a short period of time. My own realisation is that I don’t think mental health for some is ever fully cured, it’s merely managed. Mental is a true portrayal, it certainly isn’t Hello.

You may be appalled at Kim’s behaviour, you may shy away (as many people and friends do) from anyone mentioning mental illness, but please stop and think. At least a quarter of the population will have some kind of mental illness in their lifetime, so the majority of people will know a friend, family member or colleague who is affected. Alas, many of those will stick their head in the sand, shy away, or just abandon the person most in need completely.

I make no apology for using personal experience in this review and that it maybe seems a bit harsh or a tad preachy. It needs to be. We don’t just need awareness of conditions – we need awareness of how to help people living with them.


Sadly Mental was only on for five shows (closes 5th February) – but I hope Kane, with his mum’s input, develops and sticks with this show. It needs to be seen.

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