How do you write anxiety? How do you act it? Two questions that present wildly unsatisfactory answers. There are the obvious ways, the tics, the coiled up physical tensions, the wild, unkempt hair, the wildly roving eyes. There’s the breathy, machine guy delivery of dialogue, or the visible signs of ‘nervous breakdown’.
It’s not that any of these are wrong, but that they only represent the extremes of anxiety, which is why Nicole Zweiback’s play Bit of Sunshine is so fascinating. It pays equal fidelity to the extremes as it does to the just as insidious, just as debilitating everyday manifestations.
Granted, the play revolves around the nervous collapse of Ivy League entry obsessed orphan Kira, which brutally manifests itself in the form of a remorselessly intense battle with bulimia. It’s not the drama of Kira’s mental illness is banal, but it’s the banal that frames the play and provides its drama. A road trip pit stop at Burger King with her suicide-bent half-mentor, half-accomplice from the institution she finds herself walled into transforms into an almost ecstatic vision of purging, release, paranoia and the beginning of the realisation that redemption isn’t a neat, one act process. It isn’t perfectly resolvable. It’s a life sentence.
In it’s own oblique, many angled way, Bit of Sunshine deals with what happens to fragile, adolescent mental health when it comes up against the mundane, everyday, ungraspable driving towards a bogus perfection. Whether that be physical, academic, or social, these are concerns that are present in the most lacklustre, normal events. In its acidic, tightly humorous way, Bit Of Sunshine invokes both the absurdity and fragility of adolescence and the futility in treating addiction and anxiety like a common cold. As Kira opines, her disease is “like a drug. You feel it deep down, and once you’re hooked it never leaves you. But I want everything I touch… to turn to gold.” (FG)
Bit of Sunshine played at theSpace on the Mile - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bit-of-sunshine
Understanding anxiety and eating disorders- https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/eating-disorders
Down to the bones: an interview with anorexia and bulima- http://collegecandy.com/2010/02/26/down-to-the-bones-an-interview-with-anorexia-and-bulimia/
Researching academic stress and anxiety in students: a methodological approach- https://www.jstor.org/stable/30032741?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
I came out of a teenage mental health unit worse than when I went in- https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/teenage-mental-health-unit-camhs-sitcom-comedy
Coping with loss: bereavement in childhood- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1112822/