Repetitive beat poetry
This article is from 2008.
The Stone Roses come on, and over in the corner there’s always one monged fella pivoting off the wall. He starts monkey-dancing closer like he thinks he’s Ian Brown, gurning and chewing his face off with the pills. He’s pointing at you. He’s looking you straight in the eye and, although you try to shrug him off he’s coming over, right up close, facing off you, no getting away, and – yes, he’s going to talk.
And for once, at least if you’re in the audience of Rob Benson’s brilliant one-man piece about drug-induced psychosis, you’re going to listen.
Benson was moved to write Borderline after observing the ‘come downs’ suffered by some of his friends once the Ecstasy-induced party of acid house and Madchester had ended. It’s the story of one man who’s managed to spend his 18th, 21st and 30th birthdays in mental health wards after being diagnosed with borderline schizophrenia having taken too many drugs as a teenager; his rehabs, his relapses. In character so convincing that one audience member checking her programme after the show was moved to complain that it wasn’t autobiographical, Benson prowls the empty stage, evoking nightclubs, council flats and the sour smoking rooms of hospitals with just a snap of his mood and a perfectly timed lighting cue. He talks non-stop throughout, and it’s beautiful, as he lapses in and out of fast-paced rhyming verse reminiscent of Mike Skinner at his best. He also manages to play with your expectations of mental health patients, leaving you aware of your own ignorance and unconscious prejudice.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a preachy, anti-drugs show. There’s nothing didactic about Borderline; it just asks for your ears and empathy for 50 minutes.
Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug, 9pm, £7–£8 (£5.50–£6.50).