When I’ve had a tough week, there’s nothing more I like than to find a work of art that allows for a good, cathartic cry.
And upon my hour foray into the darkened theatre room, greeted by a brick letterbox set that reminded me so much of my childhood, I found my tears.
Captivating, heart-wrenching, and solemnly hilarious, Ang Collin’s Blueberry Play is a wonderfully written, one woman show about a teenage girl struggling to navigate her life of the normal adolescent trials and tribulations, with the very atypical experience of living with her dying, bipolar father.
Set in a small Australian town, we follow the nameless main character (performed entirely by the magnetic Julia Robertson) as she is confronted by the mania and lows of her father’s disintegrating mental health caused by his bipolar disorder and cancer diagnosis, the toll it has on her mother, and her struggle to bury it.
As well, she also deals with the missteps of an awkward first high-school romance; complete with rainbow snakes, vodka in choccy milk, and lemon icy-poles.
Her journey is as funny as it is heartbreaking, such as attending a party in a blueberry costume, to suddenly having to run from home with her mother when her father has an episode.
Much like the portrayed disorder of her father, the audience is taken for a rollercoaster ride of hilarious highs and sudden lows- a perfect and accurate image of an everyday life when living with mental illness.
It is a play that captures the awkward anxiety of being an adolescent, the difficult journey of grieving the things and people we inevitably lose, and the way mental illness can deeply hurt and destroy a family.
Blueberry Play is a sharply witty, beautifully sad, and intimately relatable story that uses its minimal set, sparing use of projections, and talented actress to present an emotionally tiring but worthwhile viewing.