I first saw this new play by Lara Foot when it premiered in Grahamstown at the National Arts Festival in 2016, a little under a year ago. At the time, I was in a fairly new relationship, with someone I’d known for 5 years who has been diagnosed with depression.
This show tackles friendships, relationship, addiction and bipolar disorder in an honest, heartwarming way, but addresses the harsh realities of coping with mental illness at the same time. The story revolves around Paul (Andrew Buckland) and his relationship with his wife Sara (Jennifer Steyn) who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and their friendships with the neighbour Professor James (Mncedisi Shabangu), a professor in psychiatry.
The play works backwards in time from a few years after Sara’s death, to their first meeting some 35 years earlier, touching on some of the methods they’d attempted in treatment of her condition, but primarily focused on Paul’s developing addiction to saving her, and in turn Professor James’ attempts to lighten the inconvenience of Paul’s wings as he plays guardian angel to his beloved.
This all star cast tell of this dramatic roller coaster ride through 35 years of mania, depression and addiction in a heartfelt way, and portray this thoroughly researched story in a way that had me questioning my own relationship with someone who suffers mental health issues, and my addiction to trying save my beloved from their own depression and difficulties when feelings become overwhelming.
Almost a year on from my first viewing of this work, and with a year of hindsight, I do not know that I am addicted to this person, or to saving them, but I suspect that I am. A year ago, I walked out of the theatre and made the conscious choice to stay, to fight and to face each day as it comes. I ask myself today if I made the right decision, I honesty don’t know but I am making that same decision again today.
My advice is to see this play, it is incredibly well written, the performances are heartfelt and honest, it’ll make you think, it’ll make you question and it will make you more compassionate.