Last Thursday I headed to the Rangatira at Q Theatre to check out Inner Dialogue with Mike King. Real talk about mental illness was an interesting premise for a show to be included in a comedy festival. In the beginning it felt as if no one, including the host and guest speakers, really knew exactly how the night was going to go. Is this a night of comedy? Are we supposed to laugh at what we hear? Is it rude if I laugh? But it turned out that this night was the most real and honest experience I had ever had the privilege to encounter.

This wasn’t a performance for sitting back and switching off your brain. As someone with loved ones who suffer from mental illness, I felt incredibly honoured that the guest speakers were able to share their stories in such a truthful, powerful and raw way. I felt that in each story I heard, there was something that resonated with me, and I’m sure every other audience member too. Each audience member was invited into these people’s real life battles, nothing was fluffed up or encapsulated into a false happy ending.

A particular guest speaker that I was profoundly intrigued by was Bree Peters (perhaps better known as Pania Stevens from Shortland Street but as someone who doesn’t watch Shorty I’d never heard of her before.) Deciding where to start when it comes to opening up about personal hardship is pretty difficult, but I guess a paper fortune teller is one way to go about it. The first story, prompted by the number 7 on the fortune teller, had Bree recount memories of an eating disorder in her youth. Not only did she brush over the fact that the father in the story who didn’t quite understand her inner anguish at the time, was in fact now Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, but we also seemed to skim past a story about Bree having been abducted in Brazil. Whether or not the Brazil part really happened, if there is one person I want to know more about it is the loveable Bree Peters.

Another memorable experience of the evening was the poetic brilliance of Ashton Brown. He had the audience hanging off of his every word with seamless poetry that recollected his real life qualms with healthcare professionals and his experience with depression. He was somehow able to remarkably articulate thoughts and ideas that most would find impossible to explain out loud. It can’t be said enough that depression and anxiety in young people incredibly common. So it pleased me to know that there are people like Ashton who can allow others suffering in silence to sigh a breath of relief. Ideas and indescribable turmoil, things that some may never have been able to put into words themselves can be expressed by another in such depth and detail.

I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to hear each person’s story. I have the utmost respect for each speaker to have the courage to convey their hardship with open and unflinching honesty. After the show, I thought back to my initial questions, wondering if this was ‘comedy’ and should this sort of show really be a part of a comedy festival.

But talking about mental illness shouldn’t just be a niche topic that is only touched upon in the curated circumstances then ignored in everyday life. It needs to be a prevalent topic in any situation, even a comedy festival. Because for the vast majority of people depression and anxiety is an everyday reality already, either directly or indirectly.

If you are feeling like you need some support, help is available through The Key To Life.


What: Inner Dialogue with Mike King

Who: Cori Gonzalez-MacuerJamie BowenRay ShipleyAshton BrownSonia GrayBree PetersRomy Hooper, Dan Crozier

When: 10th May

Where: Rangatira at Q Theatre

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