As you walk in, you might find yourself asking why Beth McMullen is wearing a straightjacket. The question you should be asking is, why is there a drop sheet on the floor?
Girl, Schminterschmupted (and can we acknowledge how much fun that is to say?) is a comedy show about being 'on the bubble' between psychosis and neurosis – otherwise known as Borderline Personality Disorder – as well as how BPD is treated by medical professionals and received by the general public.
McMullen starts by belting out a show-stopping rendition of Gnarl's Barkley "Crazy" (which floored, despite the wedding music flooding in from next door) before introducing the premise of the show. At the age of twenty-six McMullen was diagnosed with BPD, after scoring nine out of nine against the DSM diagnostic criteria, which put her on a path involving dialectic behavioural therapy, silent meditation retreats, and a deep-dive exploration of how 'craziness' is depicted and stigmatised in our culture.
This is an interesting and informative show. For example, McMullen received an ovation for her comments that RU OK? Day "raises a lot of awareness and a lot of money to help people who don't have a mental illness" while outpatient mental health facilities languish due to lack of funding. I also thoroughly enjoyed a mash-up which started out with Willie Nelson's "Crazy", ended on Crazy Frog's "Axel F", and featured only about a hundred songs which drop the c-word in between – which, you know, point well made.
A brilliant start, however, is tempered by a weaker middle and end. McMullen doesn't do enough to weave some parts of the show into the general theme, so they can feel like digressions. This is particularly true of the 'security guard' and 'personal grooming' sketches, which touch on women's empowerment and the role that men have in supporting it, but feel like they belong to a different comedy show. McMullen also stifled the delivery of some of her material. Some of these problems will work themselves out through repeated performances, but for others she might need to revisit the drawing board.
McMullen mentions how, when she was first diagnosed, she used art as her touchstone to try and understand BPD – and was disappointed by what was available. I'm hopeful that Girl, Schminterschmupted is helpful to people who have received, or will receive, this challenging diagnosis. What I can say for sure, however, is that it does an excellent job of introducing general audiences to the topic, alerting them to endemic funding problems which require desperate political action, and helping people to be more critical of pop culture depictions of mental illness.
Girl, Schminterschmupted's run at the National Wine Centre ends 1st March. Tickets can be purchased here.