What is normal? Next to Normal is the next best thing
Lane Cove Theatre Company presents Next to Normal, a contemporary rock musical grappling with a mother's mental illness in a suburban household. With music written by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, this Pulitzer Prize and 2009 Tony Award-winning musical is directed by Kathryn Thomas whose credentials include Holding the Man.
Walking down a candle lit path to the performance space St Aidan's, it was a full house for the second night running. A simple rustic backdrop separated into a red door, bathroom and living room space worked well changing the setting from family dining to Doctors' room with ease.
The Lane Cove Theatre Company cast is even in their respective roles. Miriam Rihani plays the suburban mum, Diana, whose depressive mood swings is alarming her family. Her teenage son and daughter, Gabe and Natalie are realistically played by Christopher O'Shea and Chelsea Taylor.
Her husband, Dan is played by Trent Gardiner portraying a strong, sensitive husband and father. The cast is rounded out by Luka Bosic, who plays Henry, Natalie's smitten stoner boyfriend and Brent Dolahenty who portrays both Dr Fine and Dr Madden as two of Diana's clueless doctors who is very engaging in the scene prescribing psychoactive drugs like lollies.
Suburban Mum, Diana and family (Courtesy Dawn Pugh)
With the doctor fiddling with dosages over a period of many weeks dulling Diana's emotions, hubby Dan is a happy man. Wanting to feel something, Diana decides to take matters into her own hands and flushes the drugs down the toilet whilst Dan learns of electroconvulsive therapy. The storyline follows parallels of Dan and Diana's lonely marriage with Natalie and Henry's uneven relationship. Natalie's strives for perfection in music as homelife is chaotic due to treatment induced memory loss.
I found the play, Next to Normal, riveting in its honesty of the characters. It portrayed how one's mental illness is not just one person's problem but impacts everyone's relationship within the family. I describe this play as a cross between a dark family soap opera mixed in with rock music for good measure. The lyrics got a little lost when all the characters were singing and the offstage band was rocking the music, but this seemed to add to the mayhem and splintered emotion of the scene.
This play will impact you and anyone that has been affected by similar situations in their own families or extended circle of friends to give an insight into an inescapable crippling pain that mental illness entails. The musical numbers were quite fitting demonstrating the highs and lows of one family's dealings of what normal is. I recommend you see what it's all about as the show is only running between 10-25 August 2018.