Roundabout at Summerhall, Edinburgh
Ria is a plain-talking young musician from Yorkshire, who makes her way up to London, determined to further her career. At one of her first gigs, she encounters Daniel – and takes an instant shine to him. It isn’t long before the two of them have moved into an apartment together and he’s a member of Ria’s band. She tells him she loves him – a huge step for her – but, for some reason, Daniel seems unable to say the same words back.
As their relationship deepens, Ria begins to notice how anxious Daniel is – and to suspect that he may be suffering from the same manic depression that afflicted her father back in the day, the father she is now completely estranged from…
Manic Street Creature, written and performed by Maimuna Memon, is an assured slice of gig theatre that focuses on the subject of mental health from a slightly different perspective – that of the carer. As Ria desperately tries to find help for Daniel, she begins to experience problems herself, ones that threaten to swamp her own musical ambitions. And, when she does finally locate a doctor prepared to prescribe medication, Daniel’s character seems to change completely.
Memon tells the story through a sequence of songs being recorded in a studio session. She’s a confident, assured performer, with a thrilling vocal range, accompanying herself on acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and shruti box. Her music is also augmented by the cello playing of Rachel Barnes and Yusuf Memon’s drums and guitar. When everything’s in full flow, the story takes flight and I feel myself propelled along by its urgent, rhythmic pulse. Sometimes it cuts abruptly back to a gentle, heart-tugging ballad, with Memon’s voice soaring effortlessly above the melody.
At the show’s conclusion, Memon offers information about mental health charities and says she wishes she could do more. But she’s already done plenty, bringing an important issue into focus through a triumphant sequence of songs. Perhaps she needs reminding of the message she’s just so eloquently delivered – that it’s really not her responsibility? At any rate, I wish I’d seen this show earlier in its Fringe run so I could have recommended it to more people.
There are just a few more opportunities to catch this awesome show, before the festival is over for another year – so what are you waiting for?