Sunday October 21, 2018


By Diana Simmonds
December 8 2017

VERTICAL DREAMING, Red Line Productions at the Old Fitz, 5-15 December 2017. Photography by John Marmaras

In just under the hour, Andrew Henry bares his soul and psyche in a remarkable collection of poetry and songs “compiled and arranged by” him and Alexander Berlage. It will leave some people illuminated and wiser, while others might be shocked and wondering whether or not they’ve been looking in a mirror.

The setting is an apparently chaotic one. There are musical instruments, everyday bits and pieces and a chesterfield that’s been neatly sawn in half but whose spewing innards add to the domestic offal on the floor. And there’s an array of theatrical lighting (Alexander Berlage again) to remind us that we’re at the Old Fitz and not some fashionably trashy bachelor pad.

On one half of the chesterfield perches singer Lenore Munro, behind her and an unusual drum kit is Paul Prestipino, next to him is guitarist/vocalist Matt Ralph and beside him is musical director, pianist and bass player Simon Rippingale completes the musical quartet. Meanwhile Henry ambles about in jumper, jeans and socks being welcoming as the audience enters. It’s casual and homely: these performers are also his friends.

Like so many people who suffer from depression Henry tells us, he has always told himself (and anyone else who might be listening) “Everything is okay. I’m fine. I can deal with this on my own.” Earlier this year he realised he couldn’t and such were the circumstances of this revelation, he checked in to a clinic because, as he tells via Matt Coonan’s spoken word piece, Hangover Thoughts: “As the hangover fades, I feel the mask stitching itself back on.”


At last, Henry faced his truth to – as he describes it – have that mask removed. What he found underneath was the result of diving headlong into a world of poetry that he found by accident – if there is such a thing – in a scrapbook at the facility. He has fashioned it into a narrative that’s also a stream of poetic consciousness. It roams in quickfire succession around the concerns of a life, small and overwhelming: How to Ruin Your Life, for Fun and Profit by Neil Hilborn is savage fun. It begins: 

Step One / Hate yourself. / You are, presumably, a human being between the ages of alive and dead, / So the chances are you're already there! / Congratulations!

It’s followed by advice on falling in love: The trick is, you must be completely unable to tell the difference between love and codependence!

Dan Roman’s Living With Depression is remarkably not, while Shane Hawley’s Rules for a Functioning Alcoholic will cut many “social drinkers” to the bone and goes way against the dominant Aussie booze culture. The text is punctuated by songs from the band ranging from an exquisite version of Ryan Adams’ Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains), through a dreamy read of the StonesWild Horses and an out there jazzy rendition of Janis’s Cry Baby


In his letter to each audience member, otherwise a program of sorts, Henry writes: “I want to contribute to the eradication of the stigma attached to mental health by standing up and sharing this with you. And don’t worry. This will be fucking entertaining.”

He’s right about the fucking entertaining part. And I hope his breathtaking honesty and ability to communicate will contribute to the eradication of the stigma. Vertical Dreaming is one of the most human and humane hours you’ll ever spend in a theatre. If it doesn’t shift your thinking and feelings about yourself or a loved one(s) then you need to take the Neil Hilborn piece from the top:

Step One / Hate yourself. / You are, presumably, a human being between the ages of alive and dead, / So the chances are you're already there! / Congratulations!



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