“People often ask me ‘what’s it like inside your head?” reads the tagline for Sisterson Foods, the first show of the week brought to the Fringe by Full Pelt theatre. Perhaps this is an impossible question to answer but by the end of this spoken word performance, the audience have a pretty good idea.
The stage, littered with paper, a single man cutting a lonely figure stands next to a tv screen playing home movies of a (perhaps) misspent youth. From the outset this was a stark production. Dealing with themes of mental health struggles, toxic masculinity, and the façade that can be created to mask pain. Sisterson Foods offers some powerful insights into the central character’s mind.
Mixing spoken word, rap, music, home movies and film clips, the level of rehearsal and preparation was clear with some very slick interaction between performer and tech being used to great effect.
One of the main things I found engaging about this performance was the use of real home movies from the protagonist actor’s youth. It was in these times that there was a sense of genuine connection to the actor/character’s past, cemented by his lip-sync mutterings along to films that obviously have meant a lot to him, and frankly I was surprised by some of the choices.
And it’s this surprise that drove home the message I took from the show. The culture of toxic masculinity hampering and exacerbating periods of poor mental health in young men. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that I know a lot of people who would benefit from seeing this performance as a way of beginning to accept and understand their own journey.
However, sadly for me it was some of the video clips that also became distracting at times. The strong performance by Max Morton was for the most part cleverly offset by the moving image, however occasionally I wished the audience were allowed to focus on the anguish on his face in moments of stillness and silence. The tender moments in this performance were some of the strongest, evoking genuine pathos and longing for a life seemingly just out of reach.
The tone of the piece oscillates wildly, ranging from gentle, quiet passages to full on aggression, to witty one liners highlighting an internal struggle a conflicted mind set. Sometimes, in the middling ground of tone, for very brief moments, there was a slip into clichéd spoken word delivery which has always irked me (an issue of purely personal taste), but these moments were far outweighed by a genuine, passionate performance.
Powerful and at times heart wrenching, this is an honest and sometimes brutal exploration of mental health, driven by a very strong central performance that will stay with me.
Sisterson Foods is showing again Weds/Thurs at 5pm at Hygeia House.