Queenstowner Margaret O’Hanlon says her sixth rock and roll theatre musical, Crazy, is fun, despite it dealing with mental illness and addiction.
“I wouldn’t drag an audience into a room just to depress them,” she says.
Staged at Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall from August 29 till September 1, Crazy follows an ordinary woman, Mirabelle, who finds herself in Invercargill’s Ward 12 after her mental state unravels.
There she meets a series of characters who are also struggling with mental illness.
O’Hanlon says her inspiration came from her late father, who suffered from schizophrenia and alcoholism, as well as watching friends struggle with addiction and mental illness.
“The one thing that I really appreciate is that within the cast [of 19, including nine leads], there are so many people who have already had experience in the area of mental health or addiction, or had people who are close to them who have.
“Everyone’s playing a character who is potentially destructive to those around them but because you have to love that person to play them, there’s so much compassion.”
Mirabelle is played by Arrowtowner Charlotte Graf, while musical newcomer Daniel Lewis plays her drug-addicted offsider.
Also debuting is O’Hanlon’s daughter Violet Hirst, 19, who plays a psychopathic self-harmer.
Between spoken dialogue there are rock and roll classics from the likes of Roy Orbison, Gin Wigmore, Arctic Monkeys and Talking Heads.
“There’ll still be ridiculous over-the-top numbers, and a lot of dancing. The choreography is brilliant.”
O’Hanlon says for the first time she’s bringing a strong message to the table – “where we go wrong is the separation from society of people who are struggling”.
“I have tremendous comp-assion for the people working within these institutions, but they’re given a really narrow mandate – they give these people the right medication and get them out when they stabilise, with no follow-up plan.”
O’Hanlon says there’ll be material from local social services available before and after the show.
$55 from eventfinda.co.nz; to book tables of 10 on August 29 or 30, email O’Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org