Vault Festival: Love (Watching Madness)


The Vault Festival, Studio at the Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.


14-16 Feb at 6pm. Running time 1 hr.


Ruth Anna Phillips and Isabelle Kabban
Ruth Anna Phillips and Isabelle Kabban

Produced by SpeakUp Theatre, written and performed by Isabelle Kabban, directed by Ruth Anna Phillips.


Love (Watching Madness) is a fast-paced, poignant and painful celebration of mums, daughters and the strength of a child’s love in the face of tough odds.


Isabelle Kabban performs her own autobiographical show which touches on her relationship with her mother, who lives with bipolar disorder.

There are three characters in this piece, Izzy and her mother, and the therapist who quietly prompts for answers to questions like “what do you fear?”. We eventually find her greatest fear is losing her mother, even if “sometimes I wish you would disappear”.

There’s another more peripheral character who sits like the elephant in the room, the mania which leads to both wild dancing and self-harm, as Kabban repeatedly slaps herself with the refrain “how can I fix you” / “you can’t”.

The two voices are hard to separate, but it becomes clear that Izzy and Izzy’s mother are so close little can seperate them. In a more lucid moment, the mother takes the daughter’s hand and wonders at it “no longer being a little girl’s, but a woman’s hand” and “when did this happen?”

Isabelle Kabban in Love (Watching Madness)
Isabelle Kabban in Love (Watching Madness)

There are boxes of water with scraps of paper, photos, a phone, a cup, floating. Flotsam of a relationship continuing to crack, as mother drinks, doesn’t shower, eats congealed bolognese from a pan. Fractions of words which are hard to withdraw. By the end of the show Izzy is dripping with the water she’s stirred with memory and smashed in fury.

Izzy on her mother, with a list of reasons she loves her,”I love it when …”. Then anger at not being able to do anything to help, or lacking an understanding of why her mother who “gave me a home for nine months before she even met me” is incapable of a normal life.

“I’m sorry you were born to be my saviour”. A deeply touching memoir about a mother who isn’t the same as others. A story about her walking behind the other mums at school, alone. The daughter always processing, analysing, trying to remain detached, “and you ask how that made me feel?”.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a Wow for Love (Watching Madness). Thoughtfully performed, and empathically directed, this is a true nugget in the glut of shows out there about mental health issues.