Last Night at the Circus 19th and 20th May 2018. The Theatre Box, the Warren.
It’s rare treat when my worlds collide and Jane Postlethwaite’s ‘Last Night at the Circus’ was one of these occasions. Not only does Jane herald from the North (Cumbria to be exact), she was also a Brightonian for a number of years and the theme of her latest comedy show is mental health. As a northerner, residing in the south, working in mental health and a self-proclaimed survivor of the mental health system, Jane and I had a lot in common. I am also a MASSIVE circus fan.
It was not clear from the guide that this was a show about serious mental health issues, such a suicide, psychosis and Jane’s experiences following a particularly nasty breakup. I would say it’s not necessarily suitable for 14+ – maybe more 16+; I brought my 14 year old along, and found some of the content shocking and upsetting.
This aside, the show is a brave and very successful way to reframe some very difficult experiences. The fact the Jane is able to stand up and speak about psychosis, the effects of anxiety and what planning to kill yourself is like, is exceedingly commendable. Weaving in the metaphor of circus shows a real talent for performing and I’d say social action, that mental health services should take note of. Jane speaks about practical steps that helped her such as the ‘Staying Alive’ app, developed by Grassroots and Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, being allocated a mental health nurse, and a very supportive friend who was in the audience.
Jane Postlethwaite comes across as a genuinely very funny woman and it takes real skill to speak about suicide in the context of comedy. Yes, at times this is uncomfortable, but suicide is an uncomfortable subject! Her presence on stage is honest and raw. As the audience you are really with her as she takes you on a ride through her mental health circus. I wish her the very best of luck and good fortune for the future.