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Dissociated at the Etcetera Theatre – Review

DissociatedWhile the repeated messages from various productions about things like mental health, loss and bereavement, domestic violence, and post-traumatic stress disorder (amongst other pertinent topics) are reassuring, Dissociated goes considerably further than admonishing its audiences that they are not alone and help is at hand if only they would ask for it. I do not mean to be dismissive of such encouragements – to say there are too many reminders of this nature is rather like saying there are too many announcements to stand clear of the doors on the London Underground.

At the same time, however, as contemporary theatre continues to evolve, shows like this one are now emerging. In this case, the story of how Alex (Eloise Jones) worked to resolve multiple psychological issues arising from crimes against the person committed against her as a child is told – it is uncomfortable viewing on occasion, especially when Alex is ‘triggered’, but her journey is highly absorbing throughout. Accompanying her is Annie (Georgia Imrie), a character difficult to explain without giving too much away: there are several Annies that Alex (and therefore the audience) encounters. It’s not one person with several split personalities – it is, as Imrie herself explains in the show’s programme, “the part of [Alex, in a given scene] that wants to change and wants to heal”.

This does, explained thus, make the dialogue in this two-hander look like Alex is effectively talking to herself. Well, she may or may not be. There is, deliberately, a lot of vagueness in the plot – she reaches the point where doesn’t know whether she’s awake or asleep, and once even decides it doesn’t even matter. This play with songs – there are quite a few numbers (in more ways than one), but I wouldn’t call the production a musical – zeroes in on what Alex is doing to rebuild her life in the aftermath of what happened to her before.

No details of legal proceedings against the perpetrators are provided here (that is another play for another time). But it’s evident that Alex lacks the support of her family. It’s not that there isn’t any love for her whatsoever amongst her relatives, but she finds herself not being taken seriously, a situation that began as a prepubescent but has prevailed into adulthood.

The show is an eye-opener, and at times a jaw-dropping one at that sometimes, as the dialogue subtly and without being preachy reveals, layer by layer, the sheer scale of pain and damage on so many levels that Alex had to tolerate at such a young age. Put it this way – it is rare to come across such a respectful silence as the house lights rose for the interval. Music, then, seems to be a form of therapy – and it is through song (though some of the rhymes in the lyrics were a tad clunky) that Alex and Annie express themselves most vividly and poignantly. The choreography and movement work well, given the relatively small performance space.

On a separate note, I was once asked by someone who had finished writing their first play for one (and only one) piece of advice with regards to getting their play on stage. I answered by suggesting that writer and director should, ideally, not be the same person: many productions that combine the two roles suffer to some extent by not having an additional pair of eyes and ears (and brain, and so on) to consider the play from different perspectives. Dissociated is that rarity of a production in which writer and director Dave Bain combines those roles with flair and confidence. A fascinating and thought-provoking production from start to finish.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Alex is twenty-seven years old and seems to have everything going for her. Her career is about to take off, she is getting married and best of all, she has finally learned to spell the word “Dyscopia”.
However, her sleeping has become increasingly disrupted.

To cope, Alex retreats into a world of dreams, but as her mental health worsens the barrier between what is real and imaginary starts to break down.
Join Alex in her dreams during this immersive, musical adventure into recovery.

Booking to 26 October 2019 at 7:30pm
http://www.etceteratheatre.com/

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