9th February 2023
John Corbyn, The Playground Theatre
The Claustrophbia of Mental Distress
When everyone talks at once nobody is listening. When everyone talks at once what is produced is not speech but noise. When a single pebble is thrown into the pond the ripples engage our attention, when everyone throws stones into the water the ripple is lost.
Like many simply constructed drama’s, four people on stage surrounded by cardboard boxes, this is a difficult play, but one with considerable impact.
Mental illness covers a multitude of conditions, symptoms, consequences, and personal experience, much beyond language and clear definition. In a society without an agreed definition of sanity how could it be otherwise. And words strung together do not make communication per se, words can come adrift from their meanings and in the intense pressure of a mental health crisis rather than resolving or healing anything can lead to a desperate desire for silence.
On stage, not one of the characters speaks authentically – until crisis demands, – what emerges is the language of defiance, denial, reassurance, -but who is being reassured? “I’m fine, it’s no big deal, I must be strong, leave me alone, man-up, do what a man should do.” Fake bravado struggles to break the oppressive tension, the claustrophobia of non-communication and mental disarray, the incomprehensible tyranny of arbitrary rules, absurd regulations and dilemmas.
In the face of all this the whole cast seethed with this restless tension, with Bethany O’Halloran, in particular, filling the stage with a truculence edged with fear and submission in the face of Francesca Marago’s stony inflexibility.
I did not stay for the Q and A session, I wanted to leave with just my own impressions, with the force of the play still un-dissected, intact. Thus, these reflections represent only my reactions and cannot reflect the full complexity of the play.
S M February 2023.