Love (Watching Madness) is an honest and raw show looking at mother/daughter relationships and loving someone living with mental illness. We had a chat with actor Isabelle Kabban about the parent/child role switch and theatre as a means of opening up the conversation.
Can you tell us a little more about what the show?
It’s a one-woman play that investigates mother/daughter relationships and caring for someone with mental health issues. It’s based on my relationship with my mum who was diagnosed with bipolar aged 62. It’s fast-paced, funny and a bit of an emotional whirlwind.
In what ways does Love (Watching Madness) explore themes of mental health?
Our show is not afraid to be brutally honest about the realities of loving someone with mental illness and the bitter frustration in realising you cannot fix someone, you can only love them. It looks at the parent/child role reversal that so often occurs when a parent is unwell, and how this has affected my life. Most importantly it explores the really special bond that my mum and I share and the beauty and tenderness of mothers and daughters.
We don’t often hear from people who live with or care for people living with mental ill health. Do you think this is something we should be exploring more, in terms of giving these people a voice?
It absolutely needs to be explored more. It’s fantastic that as a society we’re opening up more about mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression. But for a long time I didn’t tell anyone my mum was unwell and it was so isolating. We need to see these stories represented more often. Making this show has made me realise how many people share the same experiences as I do. It’s so important to be able to reach out to people who are living a shared experience and find some comfort in that.
Do you find talking about mental health is easier through theatre?
I think making theatre about mental health certainly makes opening conversations up easier. Theatre is such an exciting and special way of telling stories. For an hour you get to know someone on stage and you watch their life play out in front of your eyes. It allows the opportunity to not just be told about an issue but to feel it and understand it. Life is all about connection, and theatre offers this in such a unique way.
Did being involved in the show help you confront any issues you might have been struggling with?
Before I started making the show I got 12 sessions of counselling, which is key. So the counselling helped me deal with my past trauma/anxieties which, in turn, made me more able to make the show, without doing damage to my own mental health and delving into dangerous territory. That’s so important and I can’t stress that enough.
I still struggle with anxiety every day and that’s something I’ll live with for the rest of my life. I’m going to sign up for more counselling when I get home from Edinburgh because I don’t think you can ever stop working on yourself.
Why should Edinburgh Fringe-goers choose Love (Watching Madness)?
We’ve received two fantastic four-star reviews so far and we’ve been described as “an electric piece” , “resonant and inspiring” and “a must-see”.
What would you like audiences to leave the show thinking and feeling?
I want audiences to feel a sense of connection to us as a company and the story we’ve shared over the course of an hour. I want audience to think about reaching out to the people in their lives who may be suffering in silence, but also to take a look at themselves and the issues they may be carrying on their own shoulders.
Love (Watching Madness), until Mon 26 Aug (not 18), Pleasance Courtyard, 11.35am, £9-£10 (£8-£9)