Do You Expect Me to Talk? begins by questioning our societal obsession with the verb ‘should’, setting up some intriguing thoughts and light-humour before moving onto much darker questions. Presented to us by both Leeds and York students, is a series of monologues and sketches that unveil the stigmatized truths of mental health. Depression, anorexia, schizophrenia and suicide are all illustrated with the same raw and captivating emotion. It was brought to Stage@Leeds by Cognito Theatre, a company that seeks to tackle the issues of mental health. This performance does just that. An all female cast, the actors perfectly express the confining torments of depression without glossing over even the most difficult of feelings.
A sketch on schizophrenia was undoubtedly the most shocking
The audience is prodded into facing the dark looming figure of depression and you come to realise it isn’t so scary once you dare to utter that dirty d-word. As one speaker pointed out, depression is, unsurprisingly, depressing. However, this production managed to strip the topic of all its drab greyness and replace it with a kind of promising hope. A sketch on schizophrenia was undoubtedly the most shocking, with a separate actor voicing the inexorable and paranoid thoughts that the illness brings. One monologue slammed the clichéd phrases such as ‘depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being strong for far too long’ that are so often plastered over social-networking sites.
Ultimately, a very thought-provoking and powerful piece that confronts what society so often ignores. The tension felt when watching is only created because we are not used to such brutal honesty. Although only around forty minutes long, the aftershock of this performance is enduring. The work of this theatre group is not only entertaining, but completely necessary in a world where things are so rarely talked about.