Tag Archives: mental health

Face to Face Review: Adult Child/Dead Child (Lost Theatre, London)

claire dowieRating: *****

In A Nutshell

Colin Watkey’s “chorus of one” treatment – using several actors to explore the same character – makes for an intense exploration of Claire Dowie’s acclaimed look at bad childhood and mental health.

Overview

What happens when a child when it receives a lack of love? How does it affect their mind, and their health? We watch Claire Dowie’s character grow up through a troubled family life, right through to dealing with schizophrenia as an adult. Festival founder and director Colin Watkey’s, in reviving Adult Child/Dead Child, experiments in seeing how using several actors playing the same role effects the piece.

Writing

What’s most beguiling about Dowie’s writing is not only how free and natural the central character is, using unembellished and down-to-earth anecdotes and experiences, but the simple yet incredibly effect poetry that runs throughout the entire piece. It really emphasises and brings out the emotions and certain plot points that hook you right into the character’s story and plight without any effort at all. This poetic grasp of language really adds a simple yet lavish texture and rhythm to the text that makes the piece incredibly easy to listen to and engage with, but without adding any unnecessary theatre or pretence to someone who is very definitely a human character.

It takes us on a heartbreaking and absorbing journey of a child who has been let down at every step of the way into adulthood, resulting in a life on the edge of both reason and sanity. Laced with little garnishes of humour, it’s a deep, honest, and angry look at mental health, complete with gorgeously devastating insights into the fragility of human mentality. Nothing is exaggerated or over-dramatic, which is what makes it speak so directly to an audience and makes it so affecting. It taps so effortlessly into the uncomfortable delicacy of the human condition, and how easy it is to be destructively cruel to someone.

Direction

Watkey’s direction, as well as employing his “chorus of one”, succinctly embodies his views on what solo theatre should be through his direction here. His stage expands to include the entire auditorium, embracing the view that the audience are the “other character” of any solo show. Actors rest in seats within the audience and pop up next to them, or even perform their part at the back of the stalls. It’s audience immersion at it’s most simple, bringing the play, and therefore it’s themes and issues, physically to the audience.

The treatment of having seven actors play moments of the same character adds not just a certain sense of variety, but also intrigue. We don’t get seven interpretations of a character, per se, but several different perspectives. The issues explored within the piece always stay the same throughout, but the angle and empathises of them is slightly different from performer and performer. It’s fascinating, whilst always ensuring the narrative and clarity of the piece is never muddied. This is heightened by the fact that the actors cast here constitute a wonderful cross-section of gender, age, and culture, meaning you really get kaleidoscopic points of view that are difficult not to connect on at least one level by drawing on the performers own charismas.

Additionally, the decision to use Stephen Oxley as a makeshift “narrator” during the poetic interludes between scenes adds a sense of relief and momentum, especially as Oxley adds such elegant gravitas in doing so.

[youtube http://youtu.be/1_6k_oARrC4]

Cast

It’s impossible to pick out any particular performer as being better or any more outstanding than the other. Even as exhilarating as it is to see Dowie perform part of her own work nearly 30 years after she first wrote it, she isn’t any more or less exceptional than any of the other cast.

There are moments, however, that really stick in your mind about a each performer’s contribution. To pick a few, Martin Stewart’s playful nuances not only manage to provide some light relief through characterisation rather than script, making the character even more charming and tragic. Lola Kotey is marvellously manic and just that a little bit twisted in her exploration of mental health and its labels and stereotypes. And when Deirdre Strath’s charming and eloquent American homeliness suddenly crumbles into raw distress, it just makes something inside you break.

But what’s most extraordinary about the entire cast is how they feed off the audience. You get the feeling that some of the writing could come across more light and comic at various points throughout. But as the audience ended up having a bit more of a severe reaction to the show for this particular performance, each performer works with this rather than against, responding and complimenting the atmosphere augmenting it’s effect on people to an astonishing apex.

Verdict

An excellent experiment in what solo theatre is and means that has paid dividends. Dowie’s piece is lifted to intense new highs by an inspired vision and an impeccable cast.

[youtube http://youtu.be/2xHXdeho1UE]

Adult Child/Dead Child was performed as part of the Face to Face Festival of Solo Theatre, which took place between 6-11 October 2014 at the Lost Theatre, London, SW8 2JU. For more information about the festival, visit www.solotheatrefestival.co.uk.

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Fank Thuck it’s Twofousand and Firteen

Me and Freiya wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Well, Freiya doesn't really. She's a cat.

Me and Freiya wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Well, Freiya doesn’t really. She’s a cat.

For almost my entire life I’ve been extraordinarily cynical about New Year’s Eve. The dreary anti-climaxes and the insincere promises made to oneself made during a bout of quiet self-loathing used to make me roll my eyes. To me, NYE (to give it its popular acronym) was always just another day as insignificant as the one before it.

Never did I think I’d ever be so glad to see the back end of a year. “2012, fuck you and goodbye”, is all I have to say on the matter. It’s been a year where I’ve really struggled with my mental health and suffered a handful of other misfortunes.

That’s not to say there weren’t high points. Joining my lover and tormentor of almost two years now @peteypetey1982 and his friends in New York for his 30th was a hoot, being in charge of So So Gay’s coverage of the BFI’s 26th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was a brilliant opportunity, as was leading and representing the site’s coverage as media partners of the Iris Prize Festival was tremendous and reinforced with vigour my undivided love for the festival.

But from November onwards the shit didn’t just hit the fan, it flew into a jet turbine. With sadness I left my post at So So Gay and the magazine altogether for various and unfortunate reasons, then I had a horrendous week regarding my medication completely misfiring, and then to top it off December saw the approach to Christmas being homophobically assaulted and having to take significant time off everything whilst I recovered from concussion.

I grumble, but it could have been a lot worse, especially as I know several close to me who had a rougher time of it but politely, for the most part, put up with my rants and whines nonetheless (sorry for being such a self-centred git).

But I made it through 2012 in a better state than Britney did 2007, and oddly I’m suddenly down with the whole New Year’s guff, feeling like I have the chance to start afresh blah blah blah. The cynical side of me hates myself for feeling this way, but sod it, the other side of me doesn’t care anymore.

Therefore I’m really hoping to do more writing here, especially as there are drafts of posts that didn’t end up getting published due to the left side of my head being very swollen. But for those (30 or so) people who read this, thanks for bearing with me the past year, and I hope to deliver a bit more through this blog if you’ll let me.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (because I’m Welsh, innit).

Extra special thanks to my housemate @thezulu, and @tomwicker for being impeccable friends, my family, and for the fantastic work that the Metro Centre in Greenwich do for LGBT physical and mental health.