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Reviews/Theatre

Powerful personal work creates safe space

23 July 2021

An autobiographical account of mental illness offers a timely message of hope and love, writes Claire Trolio

Borderline, stumble. ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 21 July 2021 ·

If you could go back and visit your 15-year-old self, what would you tell them?

WA Academy of Performing Arts-trained theatre maker Evelyn Snook has devised a work that they felt they needed as a teenager, when they were first diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD.

The result, Borderline, is a heartfelt reflection of their life so far. We move from the unadulterated joy of being a toddler, through their darkest days and emerge with hope, love and acceptance.

It is presented by stumble., a collective of Perth-based artists led by Snook, whose aim is to promote mental health awareness and queer representation. Borderline was born out of their 2019 Fringe show Dancing in the Driveway. It has evolved over the years and is beautifully packaged here. It’s not too polished, retaining a raw, personal charm under the eye of director Kylie Bywaters. It’s full and punchy, but delivered with a welcome gentleness.

At the forefront there’s Snook, taking us on an autobiographical trip with more laugh out loud moments than you’d expect from such weighty material. They deliver personal anecdotes and reveal their deepest feelings and challenges with poise. While it’s heart-wrenching to see the struggles Snook has overcome, this is not an exercise in catharsis, as many similar works are. Rather the performance is delivered with comfort, from a place of calm reflection.

Snook and Gosper’s friendship and trust is evident. Photo: supplied

Perched in the corner is local singer/songwriter Be Gosper, who interjects the performance with original songs giving us pause to reflect, or just enjoy their stripped back, cosy vocals. Snook and Gosper’s friendship and trust is evident and they make a great team.

Clare Testoni’s simple set, the suburban silhouette of houses and streetlights, is projected upon from time to time. Stills of Snook as a child, which come to life as grainy home videos, offer a sense of melancholy and innocence lost. Further projections, for example metaphoric black plastic bearing down on our storyteller, and shadow puppetry, offer a satisfying visual depth.

Though it effectively conveyed a sense of crushing chaos, at times on opening night the sound effects were unbalanced to the point of not being able to hear the accompanying monologue. Fortunately, there were just a couple of moments like this, so it did not detract from the performance overall, but not one of Borderline’s 70 minutes was wasted, so I hated to miss anything.

Borderline is about one person’s experience of living with BPD, but it is also a heartfelt thank-you to those who Snook loves the most – a supportive family, loyal friends, a loving partner and a devoted family dog. Repeated references to their mother work to ground the text like an anchor; it’s inspiring.

The team have created a safe and inclusive space within and around this show. The audience is given express permission to leave and return at any time during the performance, a dedicated “soft space” is set up just outside the theatre for time out, and plenty of mental health resources are on hand.

Borderline is all about creating space. It creates a space to talk about mental health, a space for support, and a space for connection. It’s beautiful and empowering, and I can’t wait to see where Evelyn Snook and stumble. take us next.

Borderline continues at the Blue Room Theatre until 31 July.

Pictured top is Evelyn Snook in ‘Borderline’. Photo: supplied

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Author —
Claire Trolio

Claire Trolio completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at UWA. She writes about Western Australia for various digital and print media and owns a shop with her sister. For her, the spider swing is the ultimate in playground fun.

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