Rock musical tackles mental illness from a student perspective

This contemporary rock musical looks at mental illness and young people deal with it. Pictures: Pathana Rasa.

social issues editor 

Holloway, a new rock musical from Monash Uni Student Theatre, tackles the issue of mental illness from a different perspective.

It aims to represent young people and how they deal with trauma in a better light.

The contemporary rock musical – which opens tonight – steps outside the norm and uses a live band to emote the characters’ internal struggles.

The writer, Fraser Mitchell, uses a relatable storyline based on his own personal experiences to deal with the issue of mental illness.

 “I myself am a patient of mental illness, depression and anxiety, and for this reason the musical is something very close to my heart,” Mr Mitchell said.

“I never felt previous productions handled it tactfully. We wanted to approach it from a way that it had not been dealt with before.”

Holloway’s diverse cast and use of a live band sets it a part from other shows.

The story is set in a college residence and revolves around a student’s failed suicide attempt.

The other students try to understand and grapple with how they did not realise what was happening and what they could have done differently to avoid it.

Music writer and composer of Holloway Earl Marrows uses a live band to add to the appeal of the musical, despite it increasing the level of difficulty of production.

“Holloway is about friendship, community and trust, how those things can be shaped and how those things can be broken. Music is one of the most powerful ways of conveying a message,” Mr Marrows said.

“While a music ensemble puts restrictions on the amount of instruments that can be used, for me getting it all done in time was the most challenging.”

Holloway is a rock musical that pushes the limits of musical theatre.

Both Mr Mitchell and Mr Marrows said that while those dealing with mental illness did not have it easy, it was also difficult for those around them. 

“While working on the script I have tried to present it holistically and balance it well. There was a lot of editing and drafting to ensure that we said what we really wanted to say,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Earl has really outdone himself with the music this time and we are glad we got the chance to push the medium of music theatre as much as possible,” he added.  

The 20-person cast is as diverse as possible to truly represent the reality of students living in a dorm.  It is directed by Kat Yates who has previously directed Beautiful Thing and Jamie and the ATAR.

Holloway is on nightly at 8pm from tonight to Saturday, October 13, except for Sunday October 7, Wednesday October 10. A matinee is being held on Saturday October 13 at 2pm
Where: MUST, Theatre Space, Campus Centre, Monash University
Q&A: Tuesday, October 9 post-show