Pros: An exploration of mental illness, and an engaging method of educating people about treatments for psychosis.
Cons: The narrative could be clearer… But it’s up for debate how much this matters.
Quite simply, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is not to be missed. The show is fascinating in both subject matter and performance style. The show is an exploration of psychosis, and delves into the personal experiences and social implications of deteriorating mental health. Ridiculusmus present a challenging, yet accessible and engrossing work.
The play is performed in two separate but interlinking segments, each taking place on one side of a screen. Each half of the crowd can see one segment, but hear both, and actors constantly move between the narratives. After the interval, the audience swap sides to watch the other half of the play. Disembodied and semi-relevant voices invade the visible action. Throughout the first half (which will be different for each half) you get a frustrating sense of confusion. You don’t know what’s going on, and all you can do is wait and hope that your concentration eventually pays off. In order to understand, you have accept the importance of the both sides of the story as the performance is designed to simulate psychosis.
I remember thinking, after part one, that this play would be something quite incredible if it all came together in the next half. To an extent, it does. Though, and I really don’t want to give too much away here, I think a couple of messages remain a little convoluted and the closing scene is too ambiguous. I left the play believing that the narrative is by design widely open to interpretation. Upon speaking to a writer, however, I discovered that Ridiculusmus do have a distinct narrative in mind, which, unfortunately, doesn’t come across particularly clearly. Given the nature of the play, the lack of clarity isn’t a huge problem. But, I do think that, if some elements if the narrative we’re tidied up, the piece would go up a stage in impressiveness.
I’ll say no more as it’s difficult to talk about the story without giving too much away! The actors’ strengths are much easier to relate. Rupert Jones and Patrizia Paolini give stand out performances as a son and mother respectively. Jones adopts a childlike frustration and anxiety subtly and convincingly, while Paolini’s innocent expression combined with a yet panicked refrain of ‘of come on’ portray real turmoil.
This play has its artistic merits as well as social and medical value, and surprisingly the play’s title actually makes sense. Rudiculusmus’s work is based on the Open Dialogue scheme that has been adopted in Western Lapland. The discursive therapy has dramatically reduced the number of patients relying on anti psychotic drugs. The play works in conjunctions with the Wellcome Trust to reduce the stigma around mental illness and to make psychosis an approachable subject. I think Ridiculusmus do well with this mission. I think they do avoid the trap of stereotyping schizophrenia. I hope this review does the same.
Director: Jon Haynes
Written by: David Woods & Jon Haynes
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/33635/see_whats_on/whats_on/shows/the_eradication_of_schizophrenia_in_western_lapland
Booking Until: 14 Feb 2015