Left – Nicola Gunn and Ben Grant. Cover – Jon Haynes, David Woods, Nicola Gunn and Ben Grant. Photos – Ponch Hawkes
Imagine waking from a drugged sleep – there are voices and people but you’re not sure what’s going on or if any of it makes sense. A frog croaks – or was it someone pretending to be a frog?
This is the sensation created by the brilliantly named theatre group Ridiculusmus in the exploratory piece The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, which is based on the authors’ experience of researching just that – an ‘open dialogue’ program of treating psychosis that emerged in Finnish Western Lapland and has, we are told, been highly successful.
Its core principles certainly offer rich material for theatre: a focus on relationships and dialogue, tolerance of uncertainty and “allowing a polyphony of voices in the treatment process”.
To conjure that brittle sense of confusion and babble, the split audience views the same four actors intersecting across two plays revealed – one in full, the other as a shadow – spanning a dual-sided stage.
You swap ends after the interval to see reality from the ‘other side’.
As the conversations continue, the family bonds are slowly revealed, relationships are confirmed and questioned, sanity explored and normality lost, as the spectrum of psychosis stretches to cover the whole cast.
For the most part it works, with carefully timed appearances and echoed conversation that sits within normality and lunacy at the same time. Everyday issues and anxieties offer up some sublime moments of dark humour that ease the way through the morass of domestic conflict, frustration and chaos. Will Alison’s husband ever come home? Is it really Mediterranean vegetables or fish pie for dinner? Why does that 12-year-old boy have a beard? And what is wrong with quiche, anyway?
It is a smart set up, supported by cleverly written script and well executed by its players, although at times one feels you’re stuck in a holding pattern, awaiting a cue from the opposite play for the actors before your side is allowed to continue.
A handy bonus of the subject matter means that, when the audience is confused or a line is misheard, it doesn’t matter – it can be written off as an artistic aim to enhance the sensation of uncertainty and reproduce the perception of psychosis.
Warning – the audience age is recommended for 14 and over, and the 1.5 hour running time (with interval) is optimistic.
Arts House presents
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland
by David Woods & Jon Haynes
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market
Dates: Wed 12 – Sun 16 November, 2014
Times: Wed 12 – Fri 14, 7.30pm; Sat 15, 2pm & 7.30pm; Sun 16, 5pm
Tickets: $30 – $15 | Green Tix for Nix – Sat 15, 2pm
Bookings: artshouse.com.au or call (03) 9322 3713
Warning: 14 years and older