Though This Be Madness is a disjointed tale, told in just over an hour, including several stops when a baby needed shushing, bouncing, or placing just so in a mimed cot. It was difficult to believe, afterwards, that there was no baby present onstage. Such is Skye Loneragan’s skill.
It was this physicality that I found most impressive: the repeated putting down of a just-asleep baby, removing one arm at a time, then creeping out of an imaginary bedroom, was intense and precise. But it was the sequence of baby-in-womb who is also a comet who is also an astronaut which showed Loneragan’s true virtuosity as a physical performer.
Loneragan’s set reflected in detail what parenting looks like: the mess, the post it notes to remind you of anything and everything, the pathological attachment to the baby listener, the intense hatred of the squeak of the Sophie giraffe. As a mother of two, I have only the haziest recollections of those days (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture tool), but when she climbed a step ladder and spoke in the voice of a sister’s delusions it was uncomfortably familiar. I can remember that feeling of everything joining up in a neat precise pattern that you could just about grasp and no more.
Viewing this from a loved one’s perspective was revealing.
The older I get, the more I complain about pacing. At the beginning of the performance, I felt a better balance between fragmentation, and the need for the audience to be brought and held in the story could have been found. I wanted just a little more time to relish the well-crafted language, multi-layered word play and complex cultural referencing.
In terms of structure, Though This Be Madness was more a personal reflective essay than a story with a narrative arc, but sacrificing a pleasing beginning, middle and end is something that those with young babies often have to do.
The piece should be required viewing for working parents (usually but not always fathers) – the ones who don’t understand what a parent at home with an infant does all day. This is the answer, but with a lot more interruptions.
What it didn’t capture was the boredom of those days. Music, sound recordings and spoken word were all used to create a rich experience that was both entertaining and thought-provoking. There were many lines which will stay with me – such as Loneragan’s words of wisdom on trauma (from the perspective of a dung beetle), and what it means to bear a child (in gardening terms).
Though This Be Madness is an excellent addition to the essential work of bringing women’s stories, and stories of mental health and mental health carers, into the public domain.
by Stella Hervey Birrell
Stella’s first novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? explores mental health recovery and was published by Crooked Cat Books in 2016. Shorter works have appeared in various places including The Guardian, and The Dangerous Woman Project. She blogs at #atinylife140, tweets at @atinylife140, Instagrams as Stella_hb and can be found on Facebook.
Though this be Madness is showing at Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh on Tue 29 May at 10:30am, specifically for parents with babes in arms. Book here. The show premiered at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2018.