Another addition to the Sprint Festival at Camden People’s Theatre in Euston, Balancing Acts offers a touching and enlightening account of mental illness. The Kaleido Film Collective in collaboration with performing arts company Feral Foxy Ladies, put together an original array of portraits honestly reflecting the difficulties of living with, resisting and treating depression. First-hand interviews are translated into contemporary dance and audio-visual material, offering a stimulating and effective twist on a sensitive topic.
The companies explore different means of communicating the human experience and stress how individual each case of depression is. The play opens with a short welcome speech, inviting the audience to join in the experience of ‘balancing’, a term the play uses to signify the process of managing mental illness. For each perspective, we are given a name, the duration of their ‘balancing’ and their type of ‘balancing act’. For example, deep sea diving, sex, painting or performance. And it does feel like we are balancing with the performances too. The show is unpredictable, fluctuating between documentary film, singing and dancing. The inherent volatility essentially captures the impermanence and instability of depression and how it springs up in unexpected places at unexpected times.
In the final moments of the performance, the stage is cluttered with a painting, chairs, tupperware and other miscellaneous items which, although perhaps showing the cognitive and internal mess that depression is, is somewhat comforting and hopeful. We are able to visually identify with the inner processes of an anguished mind as it tries to put itself back together again.
This performance is surprisingly still a work in progress, which leaves me excited to see the final product. It succeeds in saying a lot about a subject people still really struggle to talk about.