Theatre / Bipolar Disorder

Preview: Mental, Wardrobe Theatre

By steve wright, Monday May 29, 2017

At a time when mental health is increasingly making the headlines, yet still so many are unable to speak about their experience for fear of stigma, Kane Power’s Mental attempts to tell a personal story that will get people talking. Mixing live music, storytelling, acting and movement, Mental explores Kane’s mother’s history of living with bipolar disorder – and his own experiences as her carer. Here’s Kane (formerly of Bristol Old Vic Young Company and the Wardrobe Ensemble) to tell us more.

The main way I’ve dealt with my mum’s illness throughout my life is via distance. And, as I grew older, I wanted to understand the struggles she goes through when experiencing an episode – and the difficulties of her recovery. I hoped that making this show would allow me understand those ‘difficulties’ more.

I’ve always told stories about my mum to my friends. She’s a massive part of my life, and they’ve always found it really interesting/entertaining/unbelievable, and been intrigued about my experience as my mum’s carer. Often the classic “you should write a bloody play about this mate” would come out. So I did.

My mum was really excited about the idea, and she talked openly about her experience. I realised it was the first time I had properly listened to what it’s like for her. How she felt when she was sectioned, the effects of her recovery – I’d never really considered it properly from her perspective.

I had huge qualms during the process. Was it the right thing to do? Therapy? Risky? Self-indulgent? Important? Fair to her, to me, to our relationship? But my mum was always clear, whether well or unwell, that it was important for me – and for her – to make this show.

The show is a collection of songs, stories, medical notes and my mum’s anecdotes about what it’s like to have bipolar. The music has two functions; some of it sounds quite otherworldly, we wanted it to sound like the inside of my mum’s head during an episode. And some of the music is songs I’ve written to my mum, a channel for me to say the things that I don’t necessarily say day-to-day.

Making Mental has shown me that there’s so much we don’t understand about our minds. I also think that a lot of people believe mental illness only affects certain people, but there are so many possible triggers for mental illness, that it could affect anyone, directly or indirectly.

One reviewer’s quote stuck in my head. “One’s particularly struck by Kane’s observation, adopting his mother’s persona, that the theatre, uniquely, offers the best simulacrum of a bipolar sufferer’s experience – the live flight of ideas, the transition between different plains of consciousness, the collision of fantasy and reality. But the sobering, perhaps even humbling insight, is that theatre normalises such thinking.”

Mental June 7-10, Wardrobe Theatre. For more info and to book tickets, visit


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