Adelaide-raised acrobat Margot Mansfield had her first encounter with BLIPS – brief limited intermittent psychotic symptoms – aged just 19. Now in her mid-20s, having studied and toured internationally, Mansfield has returned to her hometown for the world premiere of B.L.I.P.S., in which she shares what it’s like to feel as if you’re losing your mind.

In her case, symptoms manifested as delusional thinking, insomnia and intense paranoia. Mansfield, directed by fellow circus artist Jess Love, cleverly uses the audience’s presence and her position under the spotlight to comment on this fear of being watched, of vulnerability and exposure.

B.L.I.P.S. is funnier than you’d imagine a show about adolescent psychosis might be. Recalling – in song form, to the tune of “Teenage Dirtbag” – a time when she’d believed herself to be Jesus Christ incarnate, Mansfield distributes a Eucharist of crackers and goon-bag wine (“Shots, shots, shots!”). In her best gameshow voice, she addresses the comedic tension to be found in her experience with a round of “Fucked or Funny” facts (three in 100 people, apparently, will experience psychosis at some point in their lives).

A talented acrobat, Mansfield is also skilled at the clowning element of physical theatre, and makes inventive use of her limited props. The sheet she lies under when recalling her insomnia is also Jesus’s robe, and later a twisted skipping rope is used in a Pointer Sisters-soundtracked floor routine that evokes the manic energy of sleepless nights.

Along with well-chosen pop hits, the soundscape includes the all-knowing voice of Siri (who provides definitions and relentless reminders of the need to sleep), as well as the recorded voices of other psychosis sufferers and of Mansfield’s own mother, father and sister. A key message of B.L.I.P.S. is that the disorder impacts not only the individual, but also their support network.

A central projector screen displays family home videos at points throughout the show. At other moments, with light shining through it, it’s a translucent barrier separating us, the public, from what’s behind: a stripped hospital bed, on which she performs some of her most challenging feats of balance and control.

B.L.I.P.S.  perhaps not (yet) a totally polished performance – there are a couple of stumbles (swiftly corrected), and Mansfield appears to be reading from a script at some moments – but it is a wholehearted one, and there is frequently palpable emotion in her voice as she recounts her story. She has done a remarkable job of translating her experiences into an engaging, one-of-a-kind physical theatre experience.

B.L.I.P.S. is playing at The Studio at Holden Street Theatres until March 10.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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