At first glance the concept of a musical comedy about mental health seems insensitive. But based on the writer’s own struggles and using original music, the play sheds light on the very topical issue of mental health and raises awareness with care.
The concept; a girl named Valerie, portrayed by Chloe Arrowsmith battling the voice in her head (Helen) and a boy with the same issue named Archie played by Fen Greatley-Hirsch both trying to navigate through romance and their own minds, is a successful attempt to increase understanding of mental health.
The storyline was simple yet original and intense, with juxtaposing music that was soft and light-hearted. The lyrics were honest and uncomplicated and, although there was a lot of dark humour within the duets between Valerie and Helen (Eve Walton) and Archie and Hank (Jason Bridge), it translated into raw and relatable entertainment (because who hasn’t said something embarrassing to a server in a restaurant).
The delivery of the lines from both Jason and Eve were powerful, as both jokes and insults landed well with the audience. The loud, overbearing characteristics of Helen and Hank’s characters contrasted with the soft, vulnerable disposition of Helen and the nervous expression of Archie, captured perfectly by Chloe Arrowsmith and Fen Greatley-Hirsch.
Chloe’s emotional delivery is moving and memorable, while Archie’s pain is clear in Fen’s awkward yet distressed manner. All characters are compared to the calm voice of reason; Dr Brooks, portrayed by Louise Johns convincingly and professionally.
Aimee Cross, the creative writer and director behind the musical comedy who wrote her own songs, is the star of the show; putting so much work into her piece and executing it well enough to have members of the audience crying one minute and laughing the next.
For a small cast of five, they delivered a big, meaningful play bursting with emotion and sincerity. The cast and the creator did mental health justice, deepening understanding and accurately depicting the inner thoughts of somebody who suffers.
As Dr Brooks points out, Valerie is not alone, and neither is anybody else who is suffering. Everybody involved should be proud and buzzing with excitement after a strong opening night. If any of the issues mentioned in this review or brought up in the show affect you, please visit one of these websites:
Image credit: stage.leeds.ac.uk