The power of theatre to realistically, yet conceptually tackle taboo topics in society is proven by local company Velvet Chase Productions in their performance of Daniella Candida’s #nofilter, a unique, expressive and emotive exploration of mental illness, its causes, its effects, and the many faces of it.
This mixed media theatre experience sees music, song, dance, acting, mime, acrobatics, film and live video combined to confrontingly convey through vignettes the experience of mental illness. Aided by a variety of symbolic costumes, set and prop items, the performers who each portray ‘the shadows’ of anxiety and depression, a stereotype of mental illness sufferers, and ‘Hope’ itself, explore themes of gender, sexuality, substance abuse, stalking, suicide, domestic and family violence, miscarriage, eating disorders, rape, prostitution and psychosis. These topics, in addition to the provoking devices of nudity or semi-nudity and realistic simulations of trauma, make the show not at all suitable for younger or vulnerable audiences.
The soundtrack of the show, consisting mostly of orchestral and alternative rock with the likes of Lana Del Rey and Linkin Park featuring, was very mood evoking, with the lyrics themselves occasionally relating to the stories being played out onstage, This was accompanied by beautiful live violin to add another personalised layer. The lighting, consisting of spots and coloured washes, set tone really well. The structure of story was well broken up, but the scenes didn’t have a strong logical order which made it hard to know what was the end of the performance. The breaking of the fourth wall from the outset with characters such as “the usher” and “the shadows” welcoming the audience in was effective in drawing us in and also symbolised how mental illness is always present, lurking beside us.
#nofilter had some very powerful moments, such as the physical and verbal undressing of the trans character, the tribute section to lost loved ones of the cast to Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, and the opening suicide scene being played back in reverse with the victim instead seeking help instead of a way out. In this, important ideas were implicitly shared with the audience about how mental illness plays with its victims and can see many turn to religion and other avenues for misguided solace; how negative experiences and words and thoughts imprint on us; how mental illness has generational repercussions; how we’re all lost and trapped together; and how though the shadows are always present, so too is hope, and if you acknowledge and embrace its presence, you’ll be able to get up, keep going, and seek help from others. #nofilter is not a show to be sat back during and enjoyed; it’s a show that challenges and asks its audience to really consider its messages on mental illness during and undoubtedly after the show. #nofilter presents the reality of its taboo topic in an artistic, abstract, and ultimately, unfiltered way.
Rating: 4/5 stars
#nofilter has now finished its season with the conclusion of the Adelaide Fringe 2019. For further information on Velvet Chase Productions, click here.
Thumbnail image via Adelaide Fringe website.