Grey at Ovalhouse
Many suffer from it; many choose to speak up; many do not. Whether it be down to shame, or the echoed fear of being misunderstood, mental illness still carries with it an enormous amount of social stigma, leaving those most vulnerable too distressed to speak. Grey, the hallucinatory display of Koko Brown and Sapphire Joy, which merges spoken word with experimental music to tell the story of a mind fogged by depression, explores what it is to be a sufferer, as well as accentuating the need for schools and media outlets to educate early learners about melancholia so that they be better equipped in dealing with it should they – or their loved ones – face any neurological disorders later on in life.
More episodic than linear, the narrative has Brown dipping in and out of song and text, where she touches on matters concerning existence and therapy, prescribed medication and its side effects. Her sidekick, Joy, on the other hand, provides the entirety of the show’s sign language, whilst acting as Brown’s internal monologue – her conscience, so to speak. Together, the duo, with a mishmash of spontaneously composed tunes and strobe lighting, create art, intertwining both mind and body to showcase how one impacts the other; this all comes whilst making their case against racial discrimination known, whereby they highlight the fact that women of African heritage do matter – that just because their skin has seen the “absence of light”, does not mean to say that they are any less bright than the rest of the human race.
Abstract in its delivery, Grey is a piece designed to help sufferers of mental illness feel part of a community, a community in which they are heard, understood, supported and loved. It does not delve too much into the personal, for Brown wishes to keep the subject matter universal, to create an element of catharsis amid her crowd. The presentation does not shun psychosis: the complete opposite – it shows an individual’s strength of character as she accepts her condition as part of her day-to-day life, and still, unequivocally, decides to soldier on.
Photos: Mariana Feijó
Grey is at Ovalhouse from 27th June until 13th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.