HAPPY YET? Open Mind Productions

“Why can't you be happy?”
“Why can't you make something of yourself?”

Such are the questions asked of Torsten, the central character in Happy Yet?, by his bewildered family: questions for which there are no answers. Torsten has an unspecified and undiagnosed mental health condition that sometimes makes him incapable of getting out of bed and sometimes transforms him into a glitteringly energetic compulsive liar. He's already been rejected by his parents as the runt of their litter, whose only problem is a failure to “discipline” himself. When the play takes place, he is approaching 40 – but pretending to one of his many girlfriends to be nearing 30 – and living with a brother, much to the dismay of his sister-in-law, who is generally required to clear up the mess that his spurts of whirling devilry leave behind.

“Nothing he does makes any sense.”
“I don't know what he's thinking.”

The playwright, Katie Berglof, is young (she's studying at Edinburgh University), but writes from experience: her programme note mentions an uncle, “misdiagnosed and misunderstood”, who lived with her family “until his death”. It's easy to read Nina, the young girl on stage throughout Happy Yet?, as a representation of Berglof herself. Nina is the only character for whom Torsten isn't a problem: they play chess together, he helps her with her Ibsen homework, she chats with him non-judgementally. Seeing the action through Nina's innocent eyes encourages the audience to be less judgemental, too, especially when events become far-fetched (for instance, when Torsten persuades a police officer on duty to join him in getting drunk). Ibsen and his Swedish contemporary Strindberg hover in the background throughout, Berglof reaching towards them in her attempt to transmute the personal into the state-of-a-nation.

“All you do is throw pills at problems.”
“You can talk about these things in New York – not in Sweden.”

Throughout the play, Berglof makes jagged comments about (the paucity of) mental health provision in Sweden; she includes one character who works as a mental health professional, and makes her grimly unsympathetic. In Finland, alternative treatments for psychosis under the rubric Open Dialogue avoid medication and instead include family and friends in a circle of care, absorbing neurodiverse mental health into the community. By such measures, Torsten could be receiving the best care possible – except that, since the family themselves lack support, it's insufficient. (MC)

Happy Yet? is on at 11.50 at Surgeon's Hall until August 27th. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/happy-yet

Swedish mental health provision under attack: http://www.thelocal.se/20150818/swedish-mental-health-care-blasted-after-stabbing

Sweden's place in the global happiness index: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/may/14/mental-illness-happiest-country-denmark

On compulsive lying disorder: http://www.compulsivelyingdisorder.com/what-is-compulsive-lying-disorder/

On bipolar disorder: https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/bipolar-disorder

On Open Dialogue in Finland: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/02/12/open-dialogue-care-model-put-mental-health-social-work-back-map/

and: http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/mental-health-alternatives/finland-open-dialogue

Open Dialogue in London: http://opendialogueapproach.co.uk/

Madlove, artist the Vacuum Cleaner's new approach to asylum: http://madlove.org.uk/