‘Hold Your Breath (Count to ten)’ is an Antifragile presentation, from talented, WA playwright Daley King. This amazing, eye-opening play is aimed at breaking the idea of ‘normality’, and the stigma of being slightly different to ‘standard’. Daley was mentored in this massive challenge by Shona Erskine. This 60-minute, awakening play can be seen each evening for the first week at 7.00 pm, and then at 8.30 pm for the second and third weeks. The season runs until Saturday 12th May in the Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre at 53 James Street in Northbridge. By coincidence, this new work follows the new communication approach of the successful and moving new ABC TV series, ‘Employable Me’. Here the work specifically focuses on mental health in the arts industry, especially the author’s own familiarity of autism spectrum disorder and bipolar disorder. Generously, 5% of all profits from this work will be donated to the Black Dog Institute, a mental health help organisation. Sara Chirichilli’s set comprises a semicircle of two-metre high, black framed mirrors, with an old black iron, free standing bath at the centre of the curve. To the side is a white armchair. Scott McArdle’s dramatic lighting design and Joe Lui’s disturbed sound design and music composition were perfectly conceived, and followed the sufferer’s mood precisely. There was a brief, but effective projection design (by George Ashforth) on the mirror. The play was Stage Managed by Catherine O’Donoghue.
Lying in his bath – the water seems to give Daley security (the fluid of the womb?) – he discloses to his psychotherapist (Amy Murray, who also plays his best friend and nemesis) how even with an apparently simple task like meeting someone that he finds himself putting up a façade. Daley explains how controlled breathing is a great help with his demeanour, but that by being asthmatic even that becomes difficult.
Daley’s desire to become an actor is still paramount, even though he considers himself a ‘broken artist’. Broken emotionally, mentally and physically, which must have come as a shock to his many friends who thought they knew him well.
In a brave revealing performance, the like rarely seen on stage, Daley rattles off dozens of conditions and treatments in this mesmerising – almost monologue – presentation.
Superbly directed by Susie Conte, she controls the actor ensuring that the powerful communication does not turn to self-deprecating depression, or appearing to be over sentimentalised. Daley King’s script was a masterpiece, he managed to express his innermost feelings accurately and succinctly. An hour of listening to a psychiatric patient disclosing his woes is not the most attractive selling point for any show, but this was riveting. Daley’s conversation style delivery was as though he was intimately baring his soul to the closest of friends. Employing an ex-fellow Murdoch student and friend, Amy Murray (most of the team were students together at Murdoch Uni) as a bouncing board for his ideas and comments on this extremely relevant topic, made the flow of the dialogue much more human, and less like a lecture. The honesty of Daley’s anecdotes must have resonated with many in the audience. I am sure that over the next couple of weeks, Daley will find a flood of people coming up to him and confessing that they too have similar problems, kept hidden for years even from their closest friends and family. Daley warned us that if we found the going too hard we could leave, and at one sensitive point an audience member did leave. However, this show was not too depressing, as there were several places when I laughed out loud. This is a must see exposé, written and delivered with the utmost skill. Thank you Daley.