Mental health is often seen and discussed as a siloed issue; conversations rarely expand to cover how an individual’s mental health has A wider impact on those around them. Moody directed by George Ashforth, recognises that it’s a conversation that can’t be expressed through words but can be seen through tireless actions of love and care.
Performers Ellen-Hope Thomson and Tristan McInnes take the audience into a domestic setting using physical theatre and dance to demonstrate the dynamics of a couple who have a clear bond despite the strain that mental illness places on their relationship.
Tristan plays a partner who tries, what feels like, everything in their power to support their loved one. Endless items appear from paper bags which Tristan uses in an attempt to make their partner happy, sometimes its successful, sometimes it’s not.
On the receiving end of the gifts and symbols of care and affection is Ellen-Hope, portraying a person who clearly loves their partner but can’t always reciprocate the affection they’re shown.
Both sides of the relationship are relatable and show it to be a juggling act. We know how it feels to sometimes not have the energy to respond to someone yet also know the feeling of trying everything to make someone happy.
The inner workings of their relationship are established early in the piece. There are sections of dance where Ellen-Hope makes repetitive movements and moves in contorted ways. At one point getting stuck in a position which requires Tristan’s help to get out of.
Ellen-Hope Thomson in Moody. Photography by Georgi Ivers
Throughout the first part of the piece, they move around a dining table before it’s pushed away to make way for a large patch work quilt. Tristan gently folds out the beautifully made quilt across the floor, textile design by Rhiana Katz, covering Ellen-Hope with it.
One side of the quilt looks like an aerial shot of vast land with a blue river running through it. Its appearance becomes more evident as Tristan begins to place little felt houses around that side of the quilt, before placing the last house delicately on top of Ellen-Hope’s knees which are under the quilt. As Ellen-Hope moves from under the quilt, the house falls and everything around it starts to move too. The whole show is heavy with symbolism, but this section is likely the most profound and unique. I see it as building a life around someone, who with one swift movement has the power to change everything.
Director George Ashforth has also designed the show’s sound which gives it an episodic feeling with differing sounds taking us from one scene to another; this works well in conjunction with Rhiannon Petersen’s lighting design.
There’s a cohesive colour story too. The red-ish tones of Ellen-Hope’s dress can be seen on one side of the quilt, opposing the river, as well as other elements throughout the show.
Moody ends on what feels like a happy note as Ellen-Hope and Tristan hang up a colourful paper chain made of what looks like hospital bracelets. We know that despite the happy ending, of sorts, due to the nature of mental illness the cycle of highs and lows will repeat. However, there’s more so a feeling of hope. Hope that with such an unbreakable bond, as shown through Ellen-Hope and Tristan, love will always persist.
Moody is on now at The Blue Room Theatre until June 18.