The First Fortnigh festival aims to challenge mental health prejudice through creative arts. Dolls by Sorcha Kenny focuses on this particular topic. Being a woman I could certainly relate to the issues addressed and so could many other fellow audience members, no doubt.
Five live dolls on the stage are the exact reflection of what essentially, a lot of women are aiming for. They tell stories of those, who haven’t been fortunate enough to achieve what they wanted, without any implications. They tell stories of those, who struggled. They tell stories of prejudice, that circulates like poison through the veins of our society. It’s a global phenomenon unfortunately.
Women are looked at every day – that’s the sentence a performance starts with and this idea runs down to the very core of it. They often feel under pressure, judged. Despite it not always being the true reflection of reality, we feel the need to look like a nicely wrapped gift.
The first idea explored in DOLLS is beauty pageants for kids. Young girls are dreaming to grow up beautiful, not even knowing what that actually means. Does anyone though? I guess the more relevant question should be – why would that be important or matter on such a large scale? Some children are unfortunate enough to have obsessive parents, who want their own unfulfilled dreams to be realized through their innocent children. There is perhaps a very good reason why these type of events are deemed unethical in so many countries. Call me old fashioned, but I am standing my ground in calling children beauty pageants a disgrace. A recording from one of such event, tells us that kids often don’t even realize, what is the reason behind participation in such events.
As the performance continues, we move from an early age of female lifecycle to teens. It’s when so many girls are trying themselves out in modelling. Those dedicated enough to pursue a career in that business, where looks define a success, are not necessary strong enough to deal with risks associated with it. It can scar and affect a woman’s mental well being. Sometimes an attempt to terminate a life full of regrets and pain appears to be the only viable solution. Three dolls are telling us a story of how it all went the wrong direction for the reason of abused trust and naive nature of teens.
Castings might not always be what they are advertised. While in search for a job, women can find a different sort of occupation, that could potentially lead them either on a street or in front of the camera starring in adult movies. This is where audience is taken next. We strive to achieve a sexy vibe, not realizing that it comes together with unnecessary attention, that potentially can lead us down the path we previously would consider too immoral to even think of. We want men to turn their heads when we walk by, hoping to become accepted, noticed and admired. But can we cope with the possible unexpected consequences of excessive attention?
A tastefully minimalistic stage set up doesn’t leave you desiring more, as the decorum is not a factor that makes your imagination run wild into the land of shock and outrage in this particular instance. Using recordings from a variety of subject related speeches, that appeared in the media, makes this performance at least more colorful and even more soulful.
One of the recordings used is the extract from the speech of US republican senator Paul Akin. The ridicule in his words regarding rape is exactly the kind of tool to be used to awaken emotions in your audience and to make the experience one step closer to reality. His speech is the perfect example of ignorance. There are real people affected by real issues.
My hope is that festivals like First Fortnight and performances like DOLLS are going to stir up a public discussion and going to be a milestone in fighting prejudice and ignorance surrounding mental health. Public support and feeling comfortable to be able to share mental health issues are the key to fight them. Well done to Sorcha and the cast for a bold representation of what often seems to be a tabu of a topic.