Written by Skye Loneragan
Composed by Mairi Campbell
BSL Interpretation by Yvonne Waddell
Stay on the Ball.
Stay on the Ball…
With a determination to soothe her baby, surrounded by the chaos of new parenthood, Skye Loneragan weaves the act of settling her new daughter with exploring the various difficulties and distractions which drain the biological batteries we possess. Failing to hear from her sister, wrestling with her ‘mind’s eye’, Though This Be Madness looks to ponder about the possible fallacies we share, of that silent war declared when we had no knowledge of such, of prams which refuse to fold, of loss and those billionaires breaking down plastics into our bodies, of family members hiding in the attics and of that old, elusive friend – sleep.
Despite the semi-autobiographical nature of the production, award-winning writer, and performer Loneragan’s Though This Be Madness speaks with a collective voice, as the fragmentary passage of sisterhood, motherhood, and experiences with a plethora of existences curveballs from debilitating mental illnesses to parenthood all paddle together into an inventive, and darkly humorous story formatting itself away from the expectant narrative structure. After all, who has time for a beginning, a middle and a hypothetical ending? Especially with a crying infant. Instead, Though This Be Madness scatters anecdotes to the winds, combining the challenges of new parenthood with the struggles of depression, and psychosis, telling them in whichever way they land.
There’s a respectful sense of trust with the audience, an openness which invites judgements, and disengagement, but more so, the potential for appreciation and connection with Loneragan’s charming physicality and honest grasp of humour. The strewn set of The Land of the Lounge Room, reminiscent of any new parents’ front room, is adorned with the glittering false smiles of soft toys, yoga balls, plastic wrappings and that damned dictator who is the baby monitor. All framing a screen, an electronic catalogue of the topics, buzzwords and ‘episodes’ we will uncover together.
The production’s mechanics are an external projection of her experiences, devised not to directly communicate with audiences – but where the audience is invited to recognise features, or indeed to not. But even for those who haven’t gone through childbirth, the loss or struggle with a family member’s mental health, or a burn-out of life, the communication is profoundly natural and accessible enough for those unfamiliar to remain engaged.
Small aspects transition the stage to a safe one, the soft toys left on select chairs, the inclusion of BSL interpreters and the use of the space following the production, not strictly for questions, but just to breath. Mairi Campbell’s musical score for one is a sublime auditory connection between the ‘chapters’ as Loneragan negotiates the cluttered aspects of both their life and scenery. A calming salve, Campbell’s gentle pieces of music, along with the inclusion of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending all go towards this subtle yearning for freedom, and the sharpness of the guilt from seeking it.
Though This Be Madness subverts the Bard’s theatrical origins (though certainly borrows a name and aspects), there is arguably both no, and mountains of a method to the production – conjuring itself as an experience of performance rather than a traditional sense of theatre. The reason, narrative, and cause-and-effect linger in the betwixt and between, no tangible sense of time or causality, and herein lies the brilliance of the production. And even as we skitter in and out of conscious aspects of serenity, truth, time, or reality, Loneragan’s writing and performance are strikingly encouraging, even inspirational, despite the unsavoury territories we don our armour over. For new mothers, for struggling partners, for the anxious or the calm, Though This Be Madness is a journey we all share, no matter how different the path.