Review: Love (Watching Madness)

This one-woman show about growing up with a mentally ill mum is relentless but honest

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 04 Aug 2019
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Love (Watching Madness)

When writer and actor Isabelle Kabban was in university, her mum was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It came as a relief after a lifetime of anxiety, confusing incidents and hurt. In this stark depiction of life with a loved one and their mental illness, conversations with her therapist provide a gateway to a speedy series of fragmented memories in this solo performance.

Love and care seep through the confusion and struggle of Kabban’s childhood. From her mum throwing a trifle at her best friend at age 14, to not congratulating her on a uni interview, Kabban’s childhood had moments that were traumatic. But she does her best to keep mum fed, watered and off the booze. She cannot imagine a life without her mum, even though their relationship is exhausting and often unhealthy.

Kabban performs with relentless speed, embodying herself, her mum and all other characters that appear. She races through the good and the bad, capturing the constant instability and relentlessness of growing up in a home dictated by a parent’s poor mental health. Slight shifts in her physicality indicate character transitions, but there is little vocal change and it’s sometimes not clear which character is speaking. There is little breathing space which, though it is a genuine capture of what her life felt like, is also exhausting for the audience. Despite this, it’s a good piece providing insight into life with an unwell parent, and one that’s written and performed with unwavering affection.