Plays focus spotlight on mental health
Two shows in this year’s Kokomai festival are centred around confronting mental health issues.
Valerie by Robin Kelly and Shot Bro by Rob Mokaraka look at those issues in a frank and disarming manner, managing to be entertaining but also to expose vulnerability, making them powerful viewing.
Kelly said Valerie, which has been booked for next year’s Edinburgh Fringe, is a show about his grandmother and how her hope, resolution and optimism in dealing with his grandfather’s mental health issues helped him deal with his own chronic depression.
Kelly’s background in dealing with his depression, working in genetic research and as a musician made everything come together into the show.
‘‘There is a lot of magic in the show. It tells the story of some amazing times in my grandmother’s life, like hanging out with Frank Sinatra in Melbourne, so it has a real glamour to it, but has the hard times as well, so has a real vulnerability also.
‘‘It is a show that will make people feel something, which can be confronting and because of that we go out afterward and talk with people about it.’’
Shot Bro tells the story of the author’s attempt to kill himself by pretending he had a gun so police would shoot him. He was shot in the chest by a police officer but survived.
Mokaraka said he didn’t know he had depression and as a male he was told to harden up and that he would be all right without actually examining the underlying issues.
‘‘It’s funny, dark and real. It’s a tool for healing and as I reveal my story everyone can find a way of relating to it. I’m taking it around the country to give people a chance to speak about something we don’t really talk about.
‘‘People in NZ have been afraid to address their feelings in the past because it means being vulnerable. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else..
‘‘I’m still dealing with depression and finding new ways to deal with it. After the show we have a cup of tea where people can talk about how the show made them feel, which is a big part of it.’’
Catch Valerie at Carterton Events Centre on Friday October 13 at 6.30pm. Shot Bro is at Rangimarie Marae on Tuesday October 17 at 7pm.
Robin Kelly wants to focus on hope, resolution and optimism.