Bit of Sunshine

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Nina Klaff

at 18:47 on 25th Aug 2016

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Young playwright Nicole Zweiback wrote and performs this hard-hitting one-woman show about the strain of living with a mental illness in which a determined girl tries to embody the hole left by her parents’ death by making herself as hollow as possible.

Only a stack of chairs laid out in different formations transforms the stage from the car in which her mother and father crash, to the classroom where she sits her university entrance exams. Zweiback’s performance has moments of sheer brilliance, stretching out in bliss as she notices she is too thin for her sister’s car to register she is on the seat, but at times lacks subtlety. Her energy is admirably palpable, but this does mean that the power of more moving moments is lost: maintaining the same level of vivacity is monotonous, and delicacy would have been a welcomed tool in rousing emotions in the way that a production with such a difficult subject matter would intend. Nonetheless, this evidently does not detract the stirring nature of the production, with some audience members quietly wiping tears from their eyes when she describes how, aged 13, having been on Prozac for two years, Mia replaced her best friend Anna – her nicknames for her purging and fasting disorders.

This is an undeniably strong show, impressively carried by its author. However, her depiction of a mental hospital leads to a comparison between this facility and Auschwitz, saying that herself and the other patients were like the Jews, likening their being sectioned for their illness to being killed for your religion. Despite having every sympathy, empathy, connection to, and understanding of mental illnesses and their sufferers, the immorality of this analogy- a vulgar and unnecessary attempt at melodrama- was irredeemable for me. It trivialised an otherwise interesting portrayal of Kira’s experience. Here, she meets Polly a patient so unwell that she avoids washing with soap for fear that the salt will leach into her skin and make her bigger, yet still believes she has no reason for being hospitalised. Her friendship with this fascinating character descends into a ‘Girl, Interrupted’ dynamic in which they exacerbate eachothers disorders, and culminates in a cute but clichéd scene of unrealistic frivolity.

While most of Kira’s interior monologue is worthy, and the show has potential- there’s no doubt about it- there is some serious room for improvement. I would recommend cutting back on the superfluous, expected pulling at the heartstrings in favour of a more refined, raw version that would be sure to have the rest of the audience as tearful as the woman in the front row.

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Zoe Bowman

at 11:34 on 26th Aug 2016

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In a whirlwind of heartbreakingly honest emotion, Bloody Deeds Productions' one-woman performance of 'Bit of Sunshine' takes the audience through the story of Kira (Nicole Zweiback), and her struggles with bulimia. This frank and poignant portrayal of a young girl plagued by mental illness is moving, yet eventually bittersweet.

'Bit of Sunshine' follows Kira, a young girl whose parents were both killed when she was very young, and her subsequent struggle with bulimia. Zweiback manages to cover many bases fluidly in the script: we learn how Kira's illness affects her family, relationships, education and financial situation. She gives an unbelievably emotionally charged performance, managing to capture the stress and confusion of having a mental illness and communicates Kira's mounting desperation perfectly as the play progresses, through the use of dynamic choreography and wonderfully delivered speech.

The script is unbelievably honest. Zweiback covers everything from Kira's purging to in-depth descriptions of her traumatic experiences with clinics. Whilst this honesty does shock and upset the audience in a number of ways, it also helps to break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses such as bulimia. Such frank discussions allow for the audience to open up to the idea of talking in-depth about mental health issues; something which many feel should be given more attention in today's society.

Despite this, there are sections of the script which have some issues. When talking about the clinics, Kira describes the nature of them as "a new kind of Germany", with the hospital workers compared to the Nazis and the patients to the Jews in Auschwitz. Whilst this does attempt to communicate the upsetting nature of the clinics, one feels it is in very bad taste (and perhaps not even wholly accurate) to try and compare them to the Holocaust.

With an intense script that covers such a multitude of emotions, prospective audiences should prepare themselves for an upsetting yet enlightening performance. Zweiback's ability to perform the most extreme of emotions showcases her talent brilliantly. With some upsetting moments, this piece is extremely poignant. However, it does provoke audiences to think about mental health issues in the present day in an eye-opening way.

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