Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Normal/Madness at Pleasance Courtyard (VENUE 33). Review by Susan Mansfield

[Normal/Madness explores how mental illness affects the lives of a mother and daughter]

Many women would admit that their mothers drive them crazy, but for Kirsty McKenzie these words take on a deeper significance. Kirsty’s mother is more difficult than most mothers because for most of her life she has battled schizophrenia.

This one-woman play written and performed by Fiona Geddes and directed by Jessica Beck, based on Geddes’s experience of mental illness in her own family, is an honest, moving look at what it’s like to grow up in the shadow of another person’s frailty.

“Normal” childhood experiences – treasure hunt, fancy dress parade, swimming pool – were not “normal” for Kirsty as she found herself skirting around adult problems she had no tools to understand. Some of the strongest parts of the play are the vignettes which take us back to those moments, supported by Phil Hewitt’s skilful lighting and sound, with Geddes adeptly playing both mother and daughter, each trying to care for the other, neither quite able to do so.

As an adult, Kirsty has a home, a job, a relationship in London, but her visits back to see her mother in Scotland leave her torn between an understandable desire to stay and care and a longing to get on with her own life. Even far from her mother, the illness casts its shadow: could she develop it herself? Could her children?

There are times when Geddes gives in to temptation to tell rather than show, to explain things to the audience rather than trust the inherent drama of the situation. But at its best, her writing and strong, likeable performance captures the complex interplays of duty and freedom and family, and the difficulty of accepting a situation which will always be far from “normal”.

Until 25 August. Today 2:15pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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