There’s something that feels like an underlying incompatibility when a reviewer tries to rate an intensely personal piece of theatre especially those based on the experiences of the performer and, as is the case here, mental health issues that can be based on them. Mental health in theatre is often wholly underreported issue – one that can prove to have some serious consequences (as was recently written about in The Stage). Balancing Acts, whilst conscious of this issue, reflects on how the arts, performance and public articulation can also act as a means of catharsis for those suffering from depression.
We hear the stories of six individuals dealing and confronting the nature of their depression, each account recorded, while filmed scenes were projected on the back wall with relevant imagery. On top of this, Katherine Vince, the sole performer, provides physical and vocal interpretations and renditions of these six accounts. When put together this becomes a patchwork rendition of some vital concepts – we see paradoxes, patterns and ideas regarding depression, placed and depicted in nuanced ways both onstage and onscreen. For example, one account sees loneliness and seclusion as a means of solace, while another sees it as symptomatic of their condition, another contextualises their depression as being something substantial, while a further story sees it as a the consequence of not fulfilling a sexual addiction. Every idea is discussing, confronting another – a well constructed attempt.
These are huge, recorded and frank discussions of depression – refreshingly so. Huge praise must go to Kaleido Film Collective and Feral Foxy Ladies for choosing this subjective matter and tackling it with poise, always giving their subjects levity. Vince’s own character is key to this – a person coming to terms with the fact that any emotion she feels, positive or otherwise, is but temporary. Solace comes from movement, from gesture and interaction, from storytelling, but should never expect to last forever.
Kaleido’s filmic scenes sometimes felt anachronistic and almost too caught up with their own visual style rather than complimenting the overall story – muted colours with a subtle dynamic range and an extra layer of grain were the order of the day. It seems that their approach to interrogating something was simply by getting a camera very close to it, or juxtaposing shots as a way of revealing more intrinsic – not always successfully. The lighting transitions felt clumsy in places- too many snap cuts from intricate colour through to blank washes – moments that seemed to disrupt the general flow of a piece already segmented into an episodic structure. The person holding all of the show together was Vince, and this was her piece through and through – Balancing Acts is a powerful installation at the Vaults Festival.