I’m thinking… [by Matt Baker]
Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and what better way to generate awareness than with a show about mental health? The Big reTHINK, conceptualised in 2009 and currently run by producer and creative director Taimi Allan, combines theatre, dance, comedy, film, and music, in an effort to enable awareness for the general public.
The show is padded by The Big reTHINK Session Band, made up of Stewart Allan (vocals, keys, sitar, didgeridoo, guitar), Dylan Elise (drums), Owen Woodward (guitar), and David Bamford (bass), including guests Rob Wigley, John McNab, and Taimi Allan. Mention must be made of Simon Walker, Callan Durbin, and Tim Hagan, as the acoustics are perfectly leveled and the visuals make for an interesting diversion during set changes. Malcolm Dale, Solomon Briscoe, and Frank Woodward must also be acknowledged for their simple, symbolic, and efficient set.
In a similar vein to the Christian actor/musician groups that came to school once a year to tell us drinking, drugs, and sex before marriage was bad, the majority of the theatre pieces were written with no degree of subtlety. In saying that, many (but not all) of the actors were not professional, or even trained, so I was more than happy to simply sit back and listen to their blatant and subtext-lacking dialogue. I did, however, question the background of the writers, and whether or not they understood the concept of art using imitation to reveal truths. Fortunately, Aidee Walker and Drew Munro hit the bulls-eye with a simple flip-on-the-head scenario. Other notable performances include those of Jennifer Freed, Elliot Wrightson, Nicholas McGough, and Gerry Jaynes.
The show was well ordered, with the comedians’ performances spaced out due to their ability to keep the audience engaged. Mike Loder, Irene Pink and Justine Smith, Mark Scott, and Tevita Manukia were all hilarious in their own rights, but it was Chris Brain who made a lasting impression on me with a surprising amount of poignancy in just a few short minutes. Rob Callaghan, the host for the evening, also contributed a generous amount of both humour and pathos.
Film excerpts, dance pieces (with notable performances by Lucy Lynch), and beatnik poetry are also thrown into the mix. Along the lines of comedian John Carr, I feel the show could have had more potential as a fundraiser as opposed to simply an awareness raiser. Throughout the night, I noticed the majority of the audience raising their hands, and nodding and laughing along to the questions and statements put forward to them regarding mental health. No one seemed surprised, and nothing felt like new information. Ultimately, it was the comedians that were able to make this event entertaining. Not only were they able to communicate directly to the audience, they were able to use this ability to either introduce or reinforce issues regarding mental health, and at three and a half hours long I can’t help but feel that the show would have more punch if it was reduced to these performances. In saying that, none of the pieces seemed to go over ten minutes, and the dynamic of the programme prevented any serious degree of boredom
The Like Minds Big reTHINK plays at Q until 6 October. Details see Q.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Adey Ramsel