There wasn’t an unplucked heart-string in the theatre at the LSPU, following MUN Drama’s presentation of ‘Voices,’ a short play that closed out the St. John’s Short Play Festival on September 19th, 21st, and 22nd. The play demonstrates the struggle of a young woman and those who love her with her undisclosed mental illness.
This student-run production by MUN Drama, co-directed by Kyle Saunders and Kelly Lewis, is a heartbreaking depiction of the struggles that are so often pushed aside by those unaffected by mental illness. The sensitive subject-matter may want to make people shy away, but instead easily leaves the audience able to fill in indeterminate details to make it relatable to personal experience. The play evolved from a short story written by Kyle Saunders to the production it became through a series of contributions from the cast, personal past experiences, and all-around hard work.
The set is sparsely decorated with props – a simple dining room table and chairs on one side and an even meager two chairs opposing it. Using a back-lit screen to indicate the setting and using smart lighting to highlight the transition from place to place, the production invites an universality to further encourage the audience’s personal interpretation.
The timing for a piece like ‘Voices,’ couldn’t be more contemporary, with the fight for mental illness awareness a forefront societal issue for many people around the world. In a following interview with the cast and crew, co-director Kelly Lewis stated “There seem to be two portrayals of mental illness in popular media; first, that fitting for the plot of a horror movie, featuring people whose mental health have driven them to do evil and vile things. Secondly, the person who suffered from a mental illness but in the end is ‘all better’ and can carry on as though nothing ever happened to them.” This is not the case at all for ‘Voices.’
While the play begins in media res with a fight between the lead, Alyssa (Alyssa Fradsham) and her father (Ches Petten), it ends with the promise between father and daughter to try and do better for each other, but there is no conceivable cure for her illness in the end. On the contrary, it appears that her illness has only changed – with the help of the new-found support from those closest to her and her acceptance of medication prescribed to her by her therapist (Kusal Tennekoon). The evolution of her illness attests to the fight that so many people face today and that there isn’t a simple catch-all solution.
As with anything portraying the level of serious subject-matter that is presented in ‘Voices,’ there is always the question of how the play will be received from the audience, as well as the actors who worked on the production. The central plot is the relationship between the father-daughter duo is a work of “collective experience and wishful thinking” from the consensus of the cast, indicative of a popular issue plaguing parents and their children in society today.
Overall, the play was a masterful addition to the St. John’s Short Play Festival, and even more so a proponent for the struggle to find and maintain a personal care regime, as well as bringing to light how people can come to be of assistance for those who suffer.
Cast and Crew
Co-Director/ Producer Kyle Saunders
Co-Director/ Producer Kelly Lewis
Writer Kyle Saunders
Stage Manager Kelly Lewis
Alyssa Alyssa Fradsham
Voice One Nick Gushue
Voice Two Kyle Saunders
Father Ches Petten
Nicole Nicole Obiodiaka
Therapist Kusal Tennekoon
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