It’s running late, and if we don’t start soon, I’ll have to miss it.The packed line up at the Southbank’s Changing Minds festival means I’ve booked events back to back and delays are screwing my schedule. A one woman musical soirée about depression – I get where this is going, it’s fine. But I am aware it sold out super quick, and many others gathering around me are talking about how it’s their second or third time seeing the show – they love it so much. Perhaps I’ll stay for a bit.
I stay until the end. And I’m so glad I did.
Taking its name from Winston Churchill’s famous moniker for the depression which reared up throughout his life, My Beautiful Black Dog is not about sadness or gloom, but ultimately a play about life. This is acceptance of life.
Bridget Aphrodite and her boyfriend Quiet Boy tell the story of depression through song, poetry, comedy and glitter – so much glitter. It’s both a performance of celebration and acceptance. There’s not a happy ending, but it does end with smiles.
Shimmer, rainbows, high heels and flamboyance are counterpointed by black holes of despair, self loathing and a void – in both her life and on stage. There was a time in her life when she was either paralytic from alcohol at all times of the day or unable to lift herself up from the heavy weight of depression, once not leaving her bed for three weeks. As she says flippantly, things were so bad that she couldn’t even watch Clueless, the movie she deems to be the best ever.
There’s some beautifully tender moments, like when we see Quiet Boy bringing Bridget the radio to listen to Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service, and their warm smiles at the end, or when Aphrodite reads a punchy and sensitive letter to her familiar. The entire show manages to be tender as well as direct, as slang and made up vernacular becomes infused with the brutally affecting emotion of the situations.
Around me are grinning faces, shimmying chests, people tapping their feet and laughing. But there’s also those being hugged by friends as they cry in recognition of those days Bridget evokes on stage. Insightful and entertaining, it is a joyous piece of entertainment that reflects without knocking the complexities of life. Acknowledging whilst not resigning herself to its difficulties, there’s a sense that Aphrodite finds herself now in a wholehearted embrace of the vicissitudes of life.
As she sings ‘there will be sunshine after the rain’ she adds the comment ‘but it will rain again.’
Fast paced, chaotic and ramshackle, it’s not always an easy and ordered watch – but you know what? Neither is life.
And it’s all the more beautiful for it.