With an award-winning show called Brain and Other Stories, Brendan McLeod offers his thoughts about mental health in what has been described as a funny, heartbreaking revelation.
The Toronto-based artist “delivers an intensely personal, tightly edited, smartly comedic hour-long monologue,” the Winnipeg Free Press raved in a review. “Taking a frank, often funny look at mental illness, McLeod busts some big taboos.”
The former Vancouverite’s winter tour of B.C. includes a stop at Surrey’s Centre Stage theatre on Friday, Feb. 1, followed by a day-long workshop he’ll host at Surrey Arts Centre on Saturday, Feb. 2.
A Canadian poetry SLAM champ, he mixes spoken word with music during his Brain show.
“It’s definitely the most personal show I do,” McLeod told the Now-Leader in a phone interview. “It’s me talking about mental health, but it’s not a down show,” he added. “Like, there’s emotional moments, but it’s also comedic, it’s upbeat.… It’s not like some guy wallowing on stage, bemoaning his feelings for 55 minutes, not a self-pity show. People don’t have to worry about that. Brain is storytelling, but the second half of it includes poetry, songs and stories, and the second half is me just doing the normal stuff.”
McLeod is the founder of The Fugitives, a folk group that tours internationally. In other music-related pursuits, in 2017 he debuted a new show with classical pianist Sarah Hagen, who once hosted a concert series at Surrey Arts Centre. Dubbed No Country, the piece intersperses his poems and stories with the 13 preludes of Rachmaninoff’s Opus 32, played by Hagen.
McLeod debuted Brain, his second monologue, in 2015, and he’s since edited the work.
“Originally that show was meant for adults, and the original had some pretty mature content – no swear words, but it just talks about distressing images and thoughts,” McLeod explained. “And I didn’t think I’d ever gear it toward a youth audience, but as I performed for general audiences I found that the people who stayed afterward to talk about it were more of the youth demographic, so it just seems like something close to them right now. And, you know, that period of time is when people are going through transition – the period of my pretty intense mental-health crisis, for me. I’ve changed the show to make it more amenable to that demographic, and I’m excited to see what they think – it’s exciting for me and also terrifying.”
Details about McLeod’s “Artist Masterclass Series” workshop in Surrey on Feb. 2 can be found online at surrey.ca/theatre, under Performing Arts Classes. Registration closes on Jan. 25.