What is madness? Can we say with any certainty that one man is sane and another insane? Where do we draw the line? Borderline provokes some interesting questions in this respect by presenting us with a monologue from a generation of ecstasy fuelled, Hacienda going Mancunians – all of them ‘mad for it’ anyway. It is therefore hard to tell if this is a case of too much pill popping and drink, or in fact an example of genuine mental illness: we have a ‘borderline’ case.
Throughout the performance our view of the world is seen very much through the slightly distorted lens of the narrator; an empty stage, adding to the intensity of the performance. Squeezing and clutching at a solitary chair, our ‘actor’ creates an unnerving experience. Surely he isn’t going to pick it up? Is this a personal account and is this man mentally stable? In a clever way the audiences own perceptions of madness are thus exposed – could we tell the differences between ‘madness in normal form’ if challenged? Apparently not.
A wildly fluctuating pace also serves to demonstrate the highs and lows of a troubled mind. At times we have wild rage, stamping feet and violence; at others we are presented with a sweetly smiling sanguine chap just wanting to make his way in life. The many shades of grey between these emotions gives this performance a sense of depth and realism. Prose is also used throughout to great effect, and the exorcising of an inner childlike rhythm and rhyme adds to an uneasy atmosphere.
It has been said that ‘sanity calms but madness is more interesting’ and Borderline certainly is a fascinating account, always putting the audience slightly ill at ease. A solid performance, highlighting the tyranny of labelling individuals.