Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸
A very honest and authentic experience, the facilitating of which can only be commended. It sets itself up to be an informal conversation, it does just that, but more importantly it does more than that. A Pint Sized Conversation is in its third incarnation, now an Arts Council funded piece and on a tour across the country, and it is plain to see why, the company are inventive using their ingenuity to promote positive change.
Dylan Frankland, Rosa Day-Jones, Tobias Grace and Katherine Lea present a poignant, episodic piece on the stigma of mental health, more specifically depression as a bracket off of this. The subject matter may appear dense for some and suggests a dark and dreary work would follow. However A Pint Sized Conversation is absolutely not that. It is witty, clever, anecdotal and real, not to mention enthusiastically uplifting. It is not a solution to mental health and disclaims that it may not always get everything right, but it does offer up a plaintive harsh truth regarding the statistics and importantly promotes a propitious message of change. Change in the manner in which we think about mental health, change in the way we talk about mental health, change in the amount of government expenditure afforded to mental health and change in the level of help available. A message that is powerfully hammered home in the closing lines, ‘we are angry’, the company enthusiastically joining together to shout about their rage that nothing progressive is being done.
The bar setting is infallibly appropriate for a production like this, one that requires a level of informality in order to relax audiences into the idea that the topic should not be taboo and in order to open up a genuine dialogue. The through line being that everyone has mental health and that it should be as easy and unashamedly to discuss as talking about the weather for instance. The name of the piece clearly deriving from this pub-dialogue aspect, as each actor tentatively sips a pint throughout. The key here is Pint Sized’s acknowledgement of their audience, initially offering each a packet of crisps to encourage the creation of their informal ‘pub setting’, but more importantly as an attempt to breakdown any distinctions between us and them, after all a dialogue does work both ways. Though our part of the dialogue does not truly come to fruition until after the show when the actors encourage the audience to stay and engage in conversation with them.
The performance starts with the building up of the stigma attached to depression both figuratively and literally, using lines of string and pegs woven throughout the audience to display a multitude of negative connotations. They instantly break this down, again both figuratively and literally, physically cutting down the display they have made using scissors. Creating the motion of moving away from the stigma in order to speak truthfully and undiluted by presupposed philosophy. And so began the simplicity of the work, it is this that actively provides a lot of the charm, a level of clever and unique, image-driven story telling, becoming a recurring motif throughout. The movement of the actors intermittently amongst the audience forms an effortless, proximity technique in engagement, again adding to the aim of sustaining a dialogue. The show is littered with further beautiful motifs and movement sequences in an attempt to capture the endless possibilities of how to explain what depression is or feels like. From the simple torchlight readings of personalised explanations set to a soothing melody, to the four person physical reenactment of pressure and exhaustion as a Potential driving force towards mental health issues. The lucidity here is power, we particularly enjoyed the soundscape created in order to reimagine the intensely blasé and selfish response commuters often give to fatalities on transport lines as well as the instantaneous and witty creation of ‘Rosa’s Brain’.
A Pint Sized Conversation is framed by four monologues, each actor delivering their own personal story, unfiltered, raw and emotionally charged. These are all articulated perfectly, with just the right balance of candid, frankness and honesty. They are snapshots of what it’s like to have an acquaintance with a form of depression; covering the difficulty in comprehension, the not knowing of how to help, as well as the dependency and monotony of it. These monologues normalise the prognosis though the lense of ‘My friend’, ‘My cousin’, ‘My sister’, ‘My step Dad’, holding up a mirror to the room as many in the audience will have experienced similar situations to those recounted. And just when the vibrancy of emotion strikes, Pint Sized, instantly evolve the scene into something more thematic or image-driven. Perhaps reflecting society’s inability to talk frankly about mental health, this is both congruent and poetic. Pint Sized are also not nefarious with their chosen topic, they are completely holistic not capitalising on illness, but simply telling their truth, as well as Helen’s truth an inspiration and guide for the piece.
To conclude, A Pint Sized Conversation is incredibly inventive and delivers more authenticity than can ever be asked for, but more importantly it has a message which it clearly and stylistically demonstrates, not once deviating from its chosen track. The work is beguiling and certainly worth a watch. Check out their tour listings here.