Queen's Theatre
Until 04 Mar 2018

Review by Paige Mulholland

As the creators and performers in the highly celebrated show, "Sun Rising: The Songs That Made Memphis", you would expect Damon Smith and Adam Coad to be outstanding musicians – and they are. Their songs, all surrounding the theme of mental health, were well-written and expertly executed, with each performer playing a variety of instruments to a high standard and maintaining complex vocal parts. "Mental as Everything" stands to be an excellent cabaret, once the patter gets the attention it deserves.

Between Damon Smith's obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder and Adam Coad's anxiety, they're certainly qualified to cover the well-treaded ground of mental health for this show. The two musicians oscillate between piano, drums, guitar, ukulele and kazoo, and between original songs and covers, to paint a cohesive picture of how these illnesses affect them on a day-to-day basis. The music is diverse, ranging from honky tonk to ballads, to blues and country and more, and Smith and Coad seem perfectly comfortable with every new instrument and genre that comes their way. Complete with solid vocals and harmonies, musically, it's hard to fault this show.

The narrative, patter and presentation desperately need some tightening up to match the high quality of the music. It's clear that Smith and Coad were aiming for spontaneity and casualness, but it mostly came across as a lack of preparation. Stories that could have hit the mark and made the audience feel something instead felt a little unfocused, pulling their punches and petering off into silence. Sometimes, the two hit on something excellent (like the motif Smith would play every time he said the word "beard"), but these spontaneous additions would work better if they were smattered through a polished show, rather than emerging from the fray of hit-and-miss improvisation.

Some more scripting might also have allowed the two, Coad in particular, to share more personal stories – the best moments of the show were when they were pulling the audience into their lives, and tapping into the true intimacy of cabaret, rather than giving mental health statistics or talking about lobotomies.

It's worth coming to "Mental as Everything" just to see these two talented musicians and songwriters perform, but as a whole this show hasn't reached its potential yet. It takes a lot off work to make something seem off-the-cuff and effortless, and, I'm sure after a few more goes at it, Smith Coad will get there.