Review: The illest (Adelaide Fringe)

Venue: The Howling Owl (Rhino Room from 16–20 March)
Genre: Comedy and cross-art form
Length: 50 minutes

4/5 stars

The illest is a one-woman monologue by Yasemin Sabuncu about her journey in discovering that she has chronic illnesses — ADHD and endometriosis. She talks about how things just weren’t going well for her, her hardships and how she felt that God wasn’t listening.

The show engaged me from the start, though I was slightly panicked at Yasemin describing the state of mind she was in before her diagnoses — which you might have guessed, wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for her. I also felt concerned as she described having a panic attack. To be sure, parts of this performance are not for the fainthearted. But I’m glad I stuck with it and enjoyed myself as Yasemin got into her stride, shook off her nerves and performed with gusto.

I laughed a lot at the absurdity of Yasemin’s bad luck in her quest to find out what was happening to her body. A highlight was her description of a first experience she had with an ailment, told in a comedic package of toilet and clown humour all in one. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse for Yasemin, something else would happen; an ambulance arriving (for her of course), getting lost, accidental poisoning at the hospital, and needing surgery. Yasemin uses all these personal stories and manages to turn tragedy into hilarity. She even weaves her ADHD into her performance — “I’m keeping her on her toes,” she says of the sound manager trying to come in right at the moment when Yasemin didn’t strictly follow the script.

We’re taken on a ride with Yasemin for multiple hospital visits, questionable healers, shamans, and a rave. Yasemin tackles the attitudes of people, doctors especially, who have been dismissive of her illnesses. She manages to make this funny and deliver a hit-home message: women’s pain is often ignored. Yasemin’s message is ultimately one of hope; when she found out what was wrong and accepted herself, things started to get better.

As much as I enjoyed the show, I found myself wanting more details at times: What was it Yasemin couldn’t say because her Mum was in the audience on the opening night? How did she get her role in Mortal Kombat when her life turned around?

After the show, the lights came up again and she talked to the audience, delivering a critical message. We should talk about our illnesses, if we’re comfortable, so that others can benefit from their normalisation and these issues can gain more exposure. Endometriosis, which affects one in ten people who are assigned female at birth, is still grossly underdiagnosed. Yasemin’s show helped me realise that we must do more for people who have this condition.

The illest is playing at the Rhino Room from 16–20 March. Book tickets through FringeTix.



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