Reviews Performance Published 20 October 2014

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland

Battersea Arts Centre ⋄ 14th - 18th October 2014

Moments of harmony.

William Drew

I’m writing this review sitting at my desk listening to music…

And the crowd says “Get that paper”

And the mob sells “Kill that witch”

I started listening to music a few minutes ago because the person I share this studio with was on the phone talking about a client pulling out of a job….

I don’t think they’re going to do it

(Pause)

Yes, I don’t think they can af ord it.

My eyes flicker to another screen. I just got a WhatsApp message from a friend:

What’s wrong with the tram?

I’m easily distracted. I saw Ridiculusmus’s new show on Tuesday and I’m only sitting down to write about it now, though I’ve been mulling it over in my head alongside much else. All the distractions though, they make it difficult to just sit down and focus on the pure, unsullied recollection of that experience.

Perhaps this is one of the things we go to theatre for, one of the great pleasures of the live experience. We turn our phones off, take our seats in the audience and watch the actors. We know that what’s on stage will contain some meaning and we know that the site of that meaning will be there on­ stage, in­ front of us, the well-­lit part of the room.

These fragments that I’m surrounded with can be easily accommodated by a meaning -making mind. I know the context of the song, the conversations, the relationships between others and my relationships with them. If they were torn out of any context though, they might seem quite disturbing. If I hadn’t pressed play, if I didn’t know the context of a conversation between an architect and a builder, if I didn’t recognise a number, if I didn’t know the voice was coming from…

It’s not about the volume of stimuli, it’s about knowing that it makes sense within my understanding of the world.

The central theatrical conceit behind The Eradication, as I understand it, is to use the site of theatre to capture some aspect of the experience of hearing voices. The piece operates initially at a very experiential level. You are watching two actors on stage but there are other voices as well, in what, separated by blacks, looks like the wings. Through the use of such a simple device, the meaning that is created is extraordinarily powerful to anyone who is a regular theatregoer.

Someone is speaking off­stage and implicitly out of the world of the play. The immediate association is with an assistant director or an assistant stage manager prompting an actor who has forgotten their line. Off world voices indicate that things have gone wrong, that the reality of the play-world has been punctured. They grate. They make us uncomfortable. It quickly becomes apparent that these voices are not necessarily communicating with the characters we can see at all.

These are two separate plays happening simultaneously. We need to concentrate on what’s happening in our section clearly. Even here though, the boundaries seem to be blurring. Someone is ill clearly but who is the doctor and who is the patient? These voices: whose head are they in? As characters move from one part of the stage to another, we hear laughter from the other part of the room. That’s where the rest of the audience is. What are they laughing at? There’s a joke that we can’t see. It’s disconcerting.

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, inspired by the experimental Open Dialogue treatment of psychosis that has enjoyed extraordinary levels of success in parts of Finland, is a discomforting, uneasy experience to sit through, for the most part. It’s a discomforting, uneasy subject matter and as a result can often be the source of shame and stigma. What makes the piece so extraordinary it has attempted to create an entirely new form in order to address its subject matter. In creating this, space is made within which to explore the variety of moments with which an individual or a group might connect with their past selves and those they love through their internal world. The rules are established early only to be broken repeatedly and gloriously and then, suddenly and when you least expect it, there’s a moment of harmony. It’s rare to see meaning contained in theatricality in such a pure and powerful way.


William Drew

William Drew is a writer and games designer based in London. He makes work at the intersection between live performance and gaming as Venice as a Dolphin and an associate of Coney. As well as Exeunt, he has written for Wired UK, Rock Paper Shotgun and Unwinnable. In the past, he worked at the Royal Court Theatre and the Young Vic and he's been a script reader for the National Theatre, Hampstead and Traverse Theatres. You can find out more about his work here: http://www.veniceasadolphin.com

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland Show Info


Produced by Ridiculusmus

Written by Jon Haynes and David Woods

Cast includes Jon Haynes, Patrizia Paolini, Richard Talbot and David Woods

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