Written by Kate Leaver

Voices

Depression: the musical?

Brigitte Aphrodite is tackling her depression in self-penned musical, My Beautiful Black Dog. Kate Leaver talks to the showgirl about how she’s walloping the pernicious beast with sparkle and song.

Brigitte dancing on a bedI want you to meet Brigitte.

Wait, let me go at that again. You need to meet Brigitte. Full name Brigitte Aphrodite. And yes, that’s her real name. She’s a musician-comedian-showgirl-feminist who has toured with Kate Nash, opened for Josie Long, and toured with her own band.

Brigitte is also the star – and god, is she a star – of a musical comedy about depression. She wrote My Beautiful Black Dog with the help of a man she introduces as “the love of my life: Quiet Boy” (real name Gaz) and a director friend called Laura Keefe. It’s backed by Gemma Cairney’s shiny new production company, Boom Shakalaka Productions.

When I arrive at the Islington pub, Brigitte’s sat on a velvet armchair with Gaz and Laura. She’s draped in layers of stripes, sparkles, satin, and wool. And she’s got that magnetic kind of charisma that makes you want to know her story immediately, if not sooner.

Brigitte Aphrodite & GazHere it is.

Brigitte’s 31. She’s been living with depression for the past couple of years, but as she tells me, it’s something that’s been creeping into her life as long for as she can remember. She lives with the affable Gaz, and they’ve been in love a decade.

In 2012, Brigitte spent three full weeks in bed, virtually paralysed by depression. She couldn’t really function, but she could sing. Her natural reaction to a depressive episode was to write a musical. Of course. Because why the fuck not, eh?

“I’d had no sleep, and I woke up from that at 7am, if that makes sense,” Brigitte tells me. “I tweeted Laura on the Sunday morning: ‘R U up and awake? I’m in my jim-jams watching Strictly. I need to see you. I have a crazy idea.’ And I did need to, I needed to.”

Laura, the perfect creative amigo, invited Brigitte right over. They agreed straight away to write and direct the musical that’s ended up being My Beautiful Black Dog.

“It’s a surreal show, so it doesn’t exactly have a plot,” Brigitte explains. “It’s more a depiction of what depression can look like. When do we ever actually see that? The opening lines are: ‘This is not a fairy story. This is not a love story. This is not a story about a breakdown.’ And I stick to that. It’s a beautiful story about what I call ‘Miserabality’.”

Miserabality
I’m so full of Miserabality today,
and a nightmarious impending doom
Friendship is zenship,
and hatred is marinated
and love is friggerdy fresh,
as fresh as the Bellarian prince
or the original muse
of my aunty Daphne’s tuilipped curtains
now hated, dated chintz.

Damn this Judas of a brain
I said damn this Judas of brain
There’s a storm in here a brewing
And it’s always acid rain

Working misery into a setlist seems to have been a raw, glorious process. And as Brigitte plays with the string of metallic beads around her neck, she tells me why it was something she needed to do.

Brigitte“Essentially I’m a showgirl. The only way I can deal with anything, ever, is to perform it. This whole musical, this whole thing, is really a letter to my family and friends. It’s the only way I told most people in my life about even having depression. And it just, it had to come out that way. I’ve got to make something beautiful out of something so not beautiful. I have a lot of positivity in my heart, but when I go under, there’s nothing; I’m depleted. I’ve got to perform, or I’ll die. That’s the feeling, when I know I have to lay low.”

She pauses, playing with the beads, playing with the beads, and I ask Gaz what it’s been like to live with Brigitte, work with Brigitte, watch close-range how Brigitte fell apart and put herself back together.

“I was very much… just, around,” he says. “So that’s what I do in the show. I’m just, there. I’m always there. I’ve never worked on something so real as this show, or, really, so beautiful. For Bri, this is just the only way she knows how to explain what’s going on with her. It was bleak, but beautiful.”

As Gaz speaks, Brigitte stares into the middle distance, sad and wistful and on the verge of tears. There’s agony on her face all of a sudden, and I take her hand. We hold hands for the rest of the interview – which, by the way, is the first she’s done about the show.

“I feel like I’m fucking babbling here. Am I making sense?”

Yes, I say. So much sense, Brigitte. And that’s the thing; it might sound totally mad, but Brigitte’s musical about depression makes more sense of a messy, debilitating, dangerous chaos than most theses on the subject. She makes sense of something wild and sad by containing it to verses and lyrics and beats and riffs.

It’s a courageous artistic feat. And that’s why you need to know Brigitte Aphrodite. The girl is magic.

Brigitte’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the My Beautiful Black Dog tour has less than 40 days left. Get behind her and contribute anything from ONE QUID to this brilliant project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brigitteaphrodite/my-beautiful-black-dog

@kateileaver

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Written by Kate Leaver

Wandering Australian journalist, professional-level Harry Potter fan, occasional funny person, gelato enthusiast. Still worried about the state of Britney Spears' mental health.