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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Music (Talking Candle Productions), at MC Showroom - 90 minutes without interval

The challenges and complexities associated with mental health are front and centre in a compelling play based around a young man who hasn’t been (and isn’t) well.

Institutionalised for quite some time, Adam (Ben Smalley) now lives alone. He listens to music, watches TV, shops when necessary, cooks some basics and ostensibly keeps to himself.

Photos by Cameron Grant

His apartment is unkempt and unopened mail continues to pile up.

He doesn’t trust banks, isn’t connected to the Internet, rarely answers his phone, thinks voicemail is a con and doesn’t drink.

One day another young man, Gavin (William Schofield), enters Adam’s apartment.

He is a wannabe actor who is in an amateur production dealing with mental health and wants to gain some insight.

Gavin approached the centre Adam attends, asking whether he could shadow someone who has issues, but was knocked back.

Spotting Adam, Gavin sought him out, hence turning up unannounced.

A friendship develops between them, such that Gavin, a keen cook, starts giving Adam cooking lessons.

He also introduces Adam to another actor in the play, a vivacious young lady, Sarah (Marniesa Martinez), he is interested in.

She brings along a bottle of wine … and before you know it, the three of them are having a high time of it with a night on the town, where Adam shows what a pool shark he is.

Problem is, neither Sarah nor Gavin knows about the underlying health issues that have affected Adam.

They are brought to light by the arrival of childhood friend Tom (David Burnstock), who is concerned that Adam hasn’t responded to his overtures.

Adam appears to be a nice guy and is mostly even tempered, but he says and does some unusual and amusing things … and can rage.

Sarah gets close to Adam, who likes her, but neither Sarah nor Gavin is prepared for, or equipped to deal with, what follows.

Music is an important work – engaging and thought provoking – first performed in Sydney in 2014, but never before in Melbourne.

It raises questions about how one should engage with those that have mental health issues.

Is treating them as if they didn’t have problems the right or wrong thing to do?

Can it set them back?

Clearly, a one size fits all approach isn’t the answer, but then what is?

The characters are all sympathetic in their own way.

It is both the skill in the writing and the musical choices by Jane Bodie (inspired by her brother’s history), along with the performances that make them so.

Adam is pleasantly naive, but clearly off kilter and not self-aware.

Gavin comes across as self-absorbed, but keen to find common ground with Adam.

Sarah is at heart a softie who wants to normalise Adam.

Tom provides a voice of reason and understanding.

I was particular taken by the staging and the music that punctuated the offering.

Disharmony is captured via a kitchenette with dishes strewn about, an overly full dustbin, unopened letters littering a two-seater couch and cassettes randomly thrown on a small coffee table.

Aesthetically pleasing, light blue round metal piping, incorporating two doorways and a window, surrounds and defines the set (Zachary Dixon, who also directs the play, is responsible).

Musically, ballads to blast are the go, depending upon the mood of the six scenes.

Pointedly, while Music has charm, it doesn’t shy away from the alarming elements that are associated with mental health.

Ninety minutes without interval, the play is tense, dramatic and comedic and should be seen, a noteworthy premiere production by Talking Candle.

It is playing at MC Showroom until 26th February, 2022.


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