at C Aquila, Tuesday 14th August 2012
*Written for http://www.stagewon.co.uk. Published here: http://stagewon.co.uk/news/view/festival-icarus-a-story-of-flight/*
Depression is a topic which, no matter how many people we know who suffer, or how many statistics we read, is still somewhat taboo in Britain. Kiss Me and Tell Me How Important I Am, by Irish company Sunday’s Child, attempts to break down some of these boundaries and reignite a debate about teenage depression by offering an honest portrayal of the issue without condescending and maintaining humour to force cognition.
Kiss Me… is a show which, on the surface, seems to be little more than a show about teenage angst, but the writing goes far deeper than this. It begins with Alex (Eva O’Connor) sat on stage, talking to us about her life and how she has recovered from depression. It’s a self-aware, metatheatrical monologue which uses humour and intelligent argument to present a truthful view of depression, setting the tone for the rest of the piece.
The play does more than simply theatricalise the subject of teenage depression, however, for Sunday’s Child also offer a sometimes excruciatingly truthful representation of how it affects all of us, especially the way in which we may all “join Sylvia”, showing it to be not a condition which shouldn’t be talked about but a normal human reaction to sadness which can touch us all.
I could listen to O’Connor speaking these beautifully constructed speeches all day, which is perhaps why the supporting actors playing her best friend, her ex-boyfriend and her best friend’s autistic brother seem fairly weak in comparison. Their stories are also not nearly as engaging as Alex’s due to their relative simplicity, though the role of Christopher, the autistic brother, is well observed.
The setting and – for want of a better word – plot also feel a little contrived, and the ideas presented in the play could survive without them. The cabaret-style admission of issues is clouded a little by the James/Christopher storyline (“girls always have their problems… at least they think they do”) and takes something away from the discussion of depression.
Nonetheless, Kiss Me and Tell Me How Important I Am is an intelligent, fresh look at an issue which has been discussed widely but rarely gets an honest hearing. Featuring a stand-out performance from O’Connor, Sunday’s Child’s production is at its best when having an open conversation with the audience about our collective problems. When it does so, it speaks about teenage depression in a way which few other pieces have managed.