Suicide is a tricky topic. The creators of Minnie and Mona Play Dead know this, so they make it clear that it’s fine for the audience to leave if they need to, or to seek help.
This is a show within a show: Gita Bezard and Arielle Gray play Minnie and Mona, two friends who like playing make-believe. It’s just that Minnie would prefer to play unicorns or ants, and Mona would like to play dead. Or just die, full stop. But that’s the play within the play: Bezard and Gray also take on the personas of Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Kathryn Osborne, the writer and director of the play. And sometimes, Bezard and Gray are themselves, actors in a play about suicide.
The strong point of Minnie and Mona Play Dead is that truthfulness: the over-the-top hijinks of the two characters are abstract and absurd and fantastical, but speak to a greater truth that is further explored with contextual monologues on the development of the work, and the writer’s experiences with suicide, as well as Bezard and Gray’s own engagement with the work. The show mixes satire, autobiography and straight-up absurdity in a way that is equally fascinating and offbeat.
As someone who has actually had a friend commit suicide recently, the subject matter has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while now. With that in mind, the show layer in which the actors tell us that two of the creatives committed suicide is confronting (it may be more so if you come into the show not knowing that both Fowler and Osborne are alive and well – Fowler is currently starring in FAG/STAG). While it’s definitely engaging, it left me questioning the veracity of the monologues detailing the writer’s experiences with suicide – is it real, or is it just a part of the show?
That gnawing question aside, Minnie and Mona Play Dead is equal parts sad, funny and fierce: you can see Minnie and Mona slowly being stripped of their imaginary shields as they have to face reality, both on a textual and a “real” level as actors within a play. Bezard and Gray make deft use of the very small stage, and the show builds in a subtle, controlled manner, reaching a, well, show-stopping climax. For those seeking something a little different, and a little more abstract that other Fringe fare, Minnie and Mona might be for you.
If you do need to speak to someone, you can access Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For more information or help with depression, visit Beyond Blue.
Minnie and Mona Play Dead runs until October 3rd at North Melbourne Town Hall’s Fringe Hub (Rehearsal Room). To book tickets and for more information, head to the Fringe website.