Dr Sean Baumann is a senior specialist psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT and a consultant at Valkenberg Hospital, having worked at the hospital in the domain of psychosis for over 20 years.
He says, “Scientific accounts of madness or psychotic experiences tend to be inadequate and impoverished by a limited objective perspective. Literary and other artistic portrayals of psychosis too often lack authenticity, treating madness as a metaphor for personal and social ills.”
Baumann's libretto is brought to life through music composed by Galina Juritz with Dizu Plaatjies, conducted by Chad Hendricks and directed by Lara Foot. Fiona Moodie integrates her own artworks with that of work by patients of Valkenberg Hospital, with video design by Koeka Stander and lighting design by Patrick Curtis.
The story involves a brilliant young student who moves from rural Eastern Cape to the city to study architecture. With his mother struggling to provide for him, he perseveres, falls in love and flourishes, but shortly after graduating, something changes. He loses all perception and descends into a harrowing state of psychosis, tormented by voices telling him that he is mad.
Mental illness and psychotic experiences are brought into the spotlight using a combination of rousing music (both live and some recorded), song and striking visual imagery in an attempt to portray the complexities and wonder of these strange and ultimately unknowable worlds. The project arose from a concern that the plight of the seriously mentally ill is either ignored or profoundly misunderstood, and that this contributes significantly to the suffering of those deemed insane.
The nine-member vocal ensemble comprises sopranos Linda Nteleza, Palesa Portia Malieloa, altos Nolubabalo Babalwa Mdayi, Fikile Mthetwa, tenors Monwabisi Lindi, Vuyisa Jack and Siphesihle Mdena and basses Lungile Halam and Ebenezer Sawuli Madoda.
The small orchestra is made up of musicians Matthijs van Dijk and Galina Juritz (violins), Sarah Evans / Asra Isaacs (viola), Luke Otto / Robert Jeffery (cello), Graham H Strickland (upright bass), Gene Kierman (French horn) and Zeke Le Grange on saxophone.
John Maytham from Cape Talk said of the performance, “Absolutely brilliant. One of the most powerful and compassionate evenings I've had in the theatre for a while.”
Madness: Songs of Hope and Despair will be staged at the Baxter Theatre from 9 to 19 February with performances at 20:00 nightly and Sunday performances on 12 and 19 February at 18:00. There is an age restriction of 14 years. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Cape Mental Health and Friends of Valkenberg.
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Photo Andrew Brown.
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