I’ve no scars as proof to show you, but I’ve suffered from mental health. The memories of self-torture and pity as a teen still haunt me. The failed attempts to make the skin bleed from a snapped ruler, compass or scissors still mock me. The high dosage of antidepressants keeping the brain “sane” still laugh at me. However, the greatest battle was the school bullies, one even tried to set my hair alight, but I suppose the biggest, ugliest, cruellest bully was myself.
Theatre’s way of coping and expressing mental health is through laughter. Let’s face it – if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Who could blame them? For an audience, it’s an easier pill to swallow, a tickle to the funny bone and a happy slap to the face.
Reminiscing the depressive state of mind, I don’t remember any laughter, just the pain and torment. My back bones vibrating against the closed wooden door, my sobs salivating the choking hand and the tissues accumulating into a giant wet flannel on the bedroom floor. The loneliness whipped away any signs of hope and happiness. Little did I know I had a future.
After reading Amie Taylor’s interview with Tess Humphrey, writer of Winter of Our Discotheque, the shared memory of “attempted suicide when I was thirteen and taken out of school” was my calling to watch her play – Winter of Our Discotheque.
Expelled from Eton for arson and criminal damage, Laurie Waugh arrives at The Hastings – the only public school that would take an ex-young offender. Dripping with debauchery, The Hastings makes the Bullingdon Club look like the Boy Scouts. Thank God Head Girl Mama and Head Stoner Alex are there to initiate Laurie into the bear-baitings, human-baitings and drug currency that form the customs of his new school.
Think of Winter of Our Discotheque as a posh adaptation of Harry Potter, just without the magic. Harry is depressed, Ron is a drug addict/dealer and Hermione is Head Girl… let the imagination Wingardium Leviosa. With the “we don’t need no education” stance, this new school kid trio stink of high class and wealth: Alex (Charlie Field), ‘Mamma’ or Agatha (Lily Cooper) and Laurie (George Grey).
Slightly spoofy to the poshly spoken, Charlie Field and Lily Cooper play the perfect comical “Yah” tag team and welcome their fidgety newcomer with unexpected open arms. With his Laurence Fox looks, Charlie Field presents his Alex as a lovable rogue and troubled soon-to-be gentleman. Battling grief over his brother’s death, Field offers insight to Alex’s outer and inner traumas. Providing an answer towards his drug usage, he finds solace in his and Laurie’s medicated stashes and creates manic moments of panic throughout the play.
Like Jekyll and Hyde, Lily Cooper performs Mamma and Agatha with wonderfully perfected switches of domination and vulnerability. Wrapped in her fur coat, she pretends to wear the crown, but Laurie soon exposes her rags of virginity. Her confessions embed her frantic loss of control, resolving the matter with a gun pointed at her friend, Laurie.
Winter of Our Discotheque explores how the young mind can wither and warp. Based on self-destruction, suicide is spun like a Russian roulette, without the pointer. Alex’s loaded gun threatens the ending into a darkening, spontaneous siege towards a loving, three branched friendship.
Unconscious and drugged, Alex lies crucified to his messy bed as Mamma/Agatha and Laurie fire the beginnings of their suicide pact. Their thoughts are spoken, exchanged and shared, treating the aspiration of death like the
American English dream.
Aimed to horrify, the big reveal of these suicidal tendencies leak the stench of an unspoken reality. Young people discussing their dreams of death would probably make every parent cry, but these scenes enable the audience to encounter the depressing scenario as a passive onlooker.
Fighting the constant urge to cuddle Laurie, George Grey conquers the glorious battle of identity and seeks encouragement from Mamma. Highlighting transgender, Laurie struts in Mamma’s jumpsuit with his silk scarf as a head tie and red lipstick. Wanting to high five the best LGBT moment, Alex asks Laurie what should he call him, Laurie responds with the simple philosophy, using a beer can on a saucer – “is it now a cup?”.
Tess Humphrey offered a sticky toffee of a play with a chewy centre, biting down on the hardcore issue of mental health. For a survivor, Winter of Our Discotheque exposed the sickly sweet dreams and nightmares of a troubled mind and chomped upon the complexities of classy and stinking rich subjects.
Humphrey’s talent hypnotises the audience with its comical value, but snaps the fingers with sentimental worth alongside emotional investment. Many words rang true, longing for the “happy ending”. Happiness wasn’t included in this bedtime story, but uncertainty was.
Saluting their suicidal destiny, the trio ended the play with a giant hug. Awaiting the pounce of counsellors and social workers, this union was a powerful signifier to support young people and mental health. Exploring self-identity, the cast produced such a strong bond and transferred the bravery of expression, experimentation and collaboration as an engaging narrative. This play squished my heart and became the play of my summer.