by Laura Kressly
Everyday life isn’t often a particularly generative setting for compelling storytelling, but the many hospital dramas out there show that medicine is an exception. Though they aren’t part of most people’s daily routines, they are for the nurses who work in them. Long, exhausting shifts are dictated by the rhythms of their rounds, but these are punctuated by literal life-or-death crises. Amidst the moments of high drama, there are series of small, precise actions that keep patients safe and looked after. It’s in these little moments that this physical theatre collage excels.
By Romy Foster
Deafinitely Theatre are the first deaf-lead, professional theatre company in the UK. They make work for deaf and hearing audiences by mixing BSL, visual/physical storytelling and, sometimes, captioned performances.
by guest critic Gregory Forrest
A new Alan Bennett play is an event. And hospitals – the epicentres of birth and death – are eventful places. Allelujah! is a match made in heaven then.
by guest critic Martin Pettitt
The subject of mental health and its lack of provision in the NHS is a hot issue and one I am close to myself. The recent announcements by the government of further plans and funding to tackle the problem have been met with skepticism from those in the profession. Hearing Things is a show that sets out to show how these issues are played out at ground level and how they affect those that manage and use mental health services on a day-to-day basis. Through extensive research and workshopping, the piece follows a handful of characters as they attempt to traverse the potholes of their own, and others, mental health issues.
Laura Dean has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She’s afraid she’s going to kill herself in her sleep so spends at least two hours before bed checking her house for anything she could use to self-harm. Scarves and tights are hidden away, as are knives and other sharp objects. She can’t sleep without her checking routine and after months of exhaustion, she’s had enough. An NHS diagnosis comes with a round of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions that help her recover, but introduce several ideas that make Dean question the nature of her self. This Room is a gently communal experience where Dean provides insight into the recovery process. There are plenty of clinical reports, forms and questionnaires but Dean’s individuality is never drowned out by these or by the condition she fights.
The audience is in Dean’s bedroom with her as she works through the most commonly held thoughts by people suffering from OCD. She confesses that she wants to know what’s going on inside her head so she can understand what’s really wrong with her, something she still hasn’t quantified after the pages of documented appointments she reads at lightening speed. The clinical nature of her recitations is a lovely juxtaposition to the soft, confession-like anecdotes from her treatment, most notably the session where her therapist (with the perfect bottom) visits her at home to confront her fears, represented by a serpentine tangle of tights, head on. The whole piece is intimate, quiet and deeply personal.
Dean has a soft strength that’s immensely watchable, whether she’s sitting silently on the edge of the stage clutching her water bottle, or reading her medical notes into a stand mic. The audience immediately sides with her, and dutifully responds to her questions. The empathy is tangible, and a group hug would not be out of place after the curtain call.
This Room avoids sentimentality or an overabundance of awareness-raising. Instead, it’s a personal account of a treatment process and an individual response to it. Will Dean ever really be well? If so, does that mean she’s not really herself anymore? These are big questions that don’t have an immediate answer, but are examined in a wonderful format that is a privilege to witness.
This Room runs through 27 April.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.