The Colour of Madness is a theatrical adaptation of Dr. Samara Linton’s and Rianna Walcott’s anthology of the same title, which sheds light upon the subject of mental health within Black, ethnic minority, and LGBTQI+ communities. Produced by Maryam Helmi and Shin Woo Kim, this poignant collection of eight vignettes can only be described as groundbreakingly original. Refreshingly candid in both content and performance, this production is a welcome breath of fresh air.
The show opens with the poem “To Braise the Belly Right”, performed by Sunny Chen, whose vocal clarity is nothing short of impressive. L.E.D. lights furnish the background of the set with a touch of magic, providing the piece with an ethereality that was well-received amongst the audience. The second piece, “The Bike Dream” was one of my favourite sketches, touching upon themes of depression, bisexuality, and acceptance within the Black community. Maakhé Ndhela’s earnest delivery, coupled with Joe Padmanabhan’s strong stage presence made this a pleasure to watch. Leila Khan is another favourite, with both “Things My Therapist Does Not Know” and “Mother” very well-executed in terms of vocal cadence and all-round believability.
The climax of this production was “God Forbid”, whose script and effortless delivery made it a cut above the rest. Amir Shabir’s performance was outstanding, striking the perfect balance between anger and fragility that could have very easily come across amateur if handled in differently. Maaz Abdelrahman’s rendition of Ahmed’s interior monologue was also admirable, with a notably sharp command over facial and hand gestures that proved highly effective.
Jamie Stewart’s portrayal of Dr. Brown rounded off this sketch with a palpable irony that is worthy of mention, particularly when this production is considered within its wider setting in a university debating hall – a designated room for discussion, adorned with photographs of Edinburgh’s privileged alumni. This choice of location beautifully frames the production’s raised dialogue between Western psychology and Islam, with regards to the prejudiced link made between vulnerable young muslims and the militant radicalisation.
There were a few hiccups with this production, which is to be expected given this was its first live performance. The use of prerecorded voiceovers seemed unnecessary given the actors were adept at vocal projection, and these tripped up the actors at times. “The Stigma of Suicide” could have been better rehearsed, as the forgetting of lines on more than one occasion unfortunately brought down the otherwise well-polished nature of the show. Though, if given more time, I’m sure this can be worked on.
Though well-performed, I felt that the use of projected images within “The Ramblings of the Scarred” made the discussion too localised; this imagery seemed to blur the distinction between actress and script which, though an interesting approach, made the discussion of this sketch slightly less accessible than the others. The sketch “Self-Discovery” also didn’t seem to bring much to the show in terms of new content. The piece’s short length made it feel like something of an add-on, which is a shame given the high calibre of the other performances. Perhaps, due to constraints of time, this production could benefit from being cut to five sketches. This would ensure the production reaches its full potential whilst retaining its punch.
Overall, despite some technical hitches, with a bit of polishing, this production could easily pass for a show at the Fringe Festival. Keep an eye on this one folks, The Colour of Madness is one-to-watch.
PHOTOS: The Colour of Madness