Felicity Ward is an outspoken mental health activist. In 2014 she hosted a documentary as a part of the ABC’s mental health awareness week, almost all her interviews touch on her experiences with anxiety, and now, she’s got a show that explicitly addresses her latest struggles with her brain (and also her bowels). What If There Is No Toilet? is an hour of frank conversation about getting help, and poo. There is a lot of toilet humour, and it is glorious.
Ward is a somewhat gangly, stick thin, gorgeous 35 year old, so it’s already quite absurd to picture her having any issues passing her lunch, let alone some particularly explosive ones. Part of this is that Ward has such great control over every other aspect of her physicality, her punchlines shift from clever verbal wit to strange movement and back again without a hitch. Her impressions and re-enactments are a delight, and her facial expressions are larger than life, often betraying how much fun Ward is having on stage.
Ward is of the belief that mental health can be laughed at, and it’s definitely an important element of normalising conversations about mental illness. Perhaps because of this, the show isn’t ‘heavy’ – Ward works hard to keep the seriousness of the topic, and to share her experiences of the symptoms of her illnesses without being either too sombre or too dismissive. There’s a lightness and a wickedness to her mode of storytelling that immediately puts an audience at ease. The show doesn’t feel purely confessional either, largely due to Ward’s dedication to the topic in general. She is surprised by the number of people in the crowd willing to admit to having lived with an illness, and pleased that they’ve come to see her show.
What If There Is No Toilet? is an appropriately messy show. Ward frequently laughs at and with herself, something that is comforting rather than obnoxious with this kind of content. The tight structure that has been lauded in her previous shows isn’t as strong here, but it doesn’t need to be. The audience laugh in solid bursts rather than sloppy or explosive trickles.
What If There Is No Toilet? is on at ACMI until the 17th of April. Tickets range from $22 to $36 and are available online and at the door.