By Laura Heuston
When you Google Borderline Personality Disorder you will be met with the following definition: “Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour characterised by unstable relationships with other people, unstable sense of self and unstable emotions.” Looking to pop culture you’ll find various characters that live with this condition, usually women, that are quickly labelled “crazy” or introduced through the setting of a mental institution, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Girl, Interrupted being the obvious culprits. However when you attend Girl, Schminterschmupted by Beth McMullen you meet someone who although they are speaking at length about their illness, are a long way from any over-dramatised depictions of mental illness that tend to come out of Hollywood.
In Girl, Schminterschmupted you meet both Beth and her brain, who are at almost constant odds, to the point where Beth is able to completely subvert the emotional vs. rational trope by illustrating her own rationality in the face of her brain’s wild suggestions. It’s a funny but enlightening insight into the disconnection between the two, and allows for us to see a genuine person battling against their own thoughts without being overly flippant or confronting. The alarmingly unspecific “unstable sense of self and unstable emotions” is gone, and Beth is there, talking to you about how her brain blames her for making decisions that her brain came up with. It’s endearing, and though the unfairness of the whole situation is crystal clear, at no point does Beth ask for anything other than our respect and attention.
Beth also takes us through the BDSM criteria for BPD, and how these criteria emerge in her life. A lot of these criteria are as cold and intimidating on paper as the initial definition, one of the less alarming ones - 4) Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). But when Beth whips out a classic Aussie store bought chocolate cake and shovels it down, complete with teeth filled with icing and hopefully not a cleaning fee, we see someone that most of us have seen in the mirror at some point. We’re laughing with her, because while there is no doubt this behaviour is unhealthy, it’s also pretty funny to see reflected back at you from someone who understands it better.
I must compliment Beth on producing badges for people who are neurodivergent, which means “variations in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions”. It’s an umbrella term for people with mental illness, and the badge is a great momento for the show and the lighthearted, hilarious and truthful manner in which it is delivered. Her singing is also phenomenal, with the show featuring reworks of various popular songs to address her love of her body hair for one. Unfortunately there were a number of technical issues throughout the show, however they were managed in good humour and did not tend to last long.
This was a show that taught a lot of lessons, one of them being that a comedian does not have to make the audience laugh constantly. Beth took her audience to some hilarious places, but also to some sad ones. However she never falls into the trap of being “very nego”, as she describes the BPD criteria. And it earned her an immediate and eager standing ovation, which was utterly deserved. She should feel incredibly proud, not only of this show, but also of herself.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.