Up until fairly recently, anxiety and depression weren’t readily explored with the attention they sorely deserved. Fast-forward a decade, and anxiety has not only become easier to talk about, but it’s now regularly the source of artistic inspiration.
It’s certainly the inspiration for Sacré Blue, a one-woman confessional of sorts written and performed by Zöe Murtagh. Bravely using her own experiences with anxiety as the basis for this hour-long piece, Murtagh does a decent job of explaining the daily life of somebody suffering from the affliction. She’s a very likeable and warm personality, and the conversational nature of her performance is appealing.
However, the show itself is quite disjointed, and it feels as though the writing team never truly know what angle to tell the story from. Murtagh seems to start the production playing a hammy caricature of herself, drawing laughs from the audience but never completely engaging. It’s when she moves out of character that Sacré Blue is at its strongest – there are moments of real emotion as she describes her panic attacks.
A particularly strong sequence involves Murtagh acting out the sensations of a panic attack, which is both uncomfortable and fascinating to watch at the same time, combining performance art with physical theatre. Not too long after, Murtagh goes through the plot of Labyrinth, showing how it relates to people with anxiety. This sequence is simply Murtagh talking to the audience with not much else going on. What could be perceived as Murtagh masking and unmasking instead feels more like more of a muddle. Poetry and spoken word are also used at certain points in the production, but these feel shoe-horned in and, while giving an idea of Murtagh’s range as a performer, do not really add to the show as a whole.
As a piece of informative theatre, Sacré Blue ticks all the right boxes. It is sufficiently unsettling at first, but Murtagh does a nice job of talking about the condition in a way that is frank but not alienating or condescending. Giving thanks to not only those who live with the condition but everyone that supports these people is a wonderful touch, and arguably the highlight of the production. It’s just a shame that she’s unable to keep that strong writing going throughout the piece.