WHAT does it take for a man to pull himself back from the brink of death?
It’s a question explored in the Aussie pub rock musical Merry Go Round, premiering at Belmont’s Latvian Centre Theatre this October.
Written and directed by Bree Vreedenburgh, it’s a showcase of Aussie music classics framing the story of Alan, who is trying to get his life back on track after a suicide attempt.
He is sent to a therapy group led by the ever-cheerful Tim and encounters a sweet-natured junkie, someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, an older lady overcoming the death of her husband, a woman recovering from an abusive relationship and another person described as “beyond help”.
“Merry Go Round is about beating depression, asking for help, rising above adversity, and showing that people who have mental illnesses are pretty much the same as the rest of us,” Vreedenburgh said.
?“My inspiration to write the show came from my own experiences living with depression, as well as learning about how other people deal with discussing it.
“The greatest influences were how people overcame depression – or didn’t.
“I’ll talk to anyone about my experiences but I’ve found there are people who still don’t understand mental illness and think it’s a taboo topic, happy to sweep it under the carpet.”
In 2006, Vreedenburgh was living in a country town four hours from Perth and, looking after her four-year-old son while her partner was working, found herself feeling isolated and alone.
From there, the seed of what became Merry Go Round started when she wrote the song Lonely Days and thought about writing a musical.
“I noticed a poster on the door of the local library that asked men especially to seek help for depression – and that’s how I came to write the show from a man’s perspective,” Vreedenburgh said.
“Men are much worse at getting help for mental illness and much better at succeeding at suicide than women.
“I wrote all the music for the show and took it to the theatre community, where it was critiqued and workshopped and an enthusiastic group of people got behind it.
“But then I realised the show wasn’t going to appeal much to the people I wanted to see it – men.”
After hearing a radio discussion where one of the younger male presenters said “musicals weren’t his thing”, Vreedenburgh set about finding a way to make them appealing to 25 to 40-year-old Australian males.
“It hit me that Aussie pub rock would work,” she said. “So I went about finding Aussie tracks that would fit into the story of the show and Merry Go Round was born.
“There are a few challenges I am facing as a director, including balancing the seriousness of the subject with the right amount of humour and helping the cast portray really deep and unsettling emotions.
“Effectively meshing the story with the songs is also high on my list of things to do.
“But I’m really looking forward to meeting those challenges and ending up with a production that will take audiences on a whirlwind of emotions, leaving them happy and positive at the end, humming tunes from the show.”
Merry Go Round plays at 8pm, October 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 with 2pm matinees October 12 and 19. Tickets are $20, $16 concession or $15 each for groups of 10 or more – book through trybooking.com or call 0421 084 226.
Opening night is World Mental Health Day and also the closing event for WA Mental Health Week (www.waamh.org.au) with doors opening from 7pm.
Part proceeds from the show go the WA Men’s Shed Association and Enterprise 33, an organisation that focuses on men’s suicide prevention and delivers post-suicide assistance for families.
The Latvian Centre Theatre is at 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont.
Alan-AJ Lowe: AJ Lowe plans Alan, someone trying to get his life back on track, in the pub rock musical Merry Go Round. Picture: James Wilson
KathleenUhlmann-TheDevil: Kathleen Uhlmann plays the Devil in Merry Go Round this October. Picture: James Wilson
DimityWehr-Rosa: Dimity Wehr plays Rosa, a spiritual widow with emotional intelligence in Merry Go Round. Picture: James Wilson
RachaelMaher-Ang: Rachael Maher is Ang in Merry Go Round at Belmont’s Latvian Centre Theatre. Picture: James Wilson
ARENAarts is an independent, West Australian, not-for-profit arts organisation producing and supporting such projects as professional co-op shows and community theatre, as well as theatre-for-schools productions.
Our work includes such things as Wyrd Sisters, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Santa's Space Christmas, Doctor Who: Hellblossom, Northanger Abbey and The Storykeeper.
We aim to provide creative opportunities in the arts to encourage the growth of local, grassroots arts projects and to create works to reach new and existing audiences.
Since 1988, we have produced more than 155 arts projects, which have had more than 4300 performances for an audience in excess of 1 million.
ARENAarts community theatre productions are completely run by volunteers, from the actors to the director, as well as everyone involved behind the scenes. The productions are held at a variety of venues all across the Perth metropolitan area. They are tremendous fun and a great way to learn skills and make friends. Great for those just starting out in the industry as well as seasoned performers.
ARENAarts co-op productions are the perfect opportunity for anyone wishing to put on a professional production but are in need of funding, set and props and/or mentorship.
ARENAarts theatre-for-schools program offers touring educational productions that cater for junior to upper primary children. Productions include the very successful The Storykeeper which is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year.
P: 0421 084 226