After years of neglect and denial mental health is firmly on the agenda. The evils of an invisible illness are now openly discussed in the media and regularly feature on stage, film and TV. Exposure removes the stigma and promotes greater understanding of conditions that previously were barely acknowledged. Nevertheless, it is still uncomfortable to watch. So care is required when structuring a story for the stage.
Dissociated is a well-acted and written piece describing a person’s descent into mental illness. But to stretch the story over 2 hours 21 minutes (including interval) is a serious error. Writer David Bain may have been searching for an extra layer of truth in the characters portrayed; but I think it was already staring him in the face.
The story tells of Alex (Eloise Jones), a promising twenty-seven-year-old studying for a career in medicine, and twin sister Annie (Georgia Imrie) who also pops up in her dreams as her mother, uncle and older self. Different stages of Alex’s illness are signposted by the ritual slap of a mythical number 6 representing a fruit machine; a clever method of showing how random her moods can be. Dream sequences are key to the piece as she struggles with her sub-conscious thoughts.
The songs are an unnecessary distraction and don’t add as much to the narrative as they should. The choreography is exaggerated and over cooked, leaving the impression they belong to a completely different show. The story moves far too slowly; scene transitions are often difficult to follow. The performers left the stage at the end of Act I to near silence, because the audience weren’t sure it had ended. Act II works better as it explores the root of Alex’s mental fragility. Nevertheless, it takes far too long to get there. There is simply too much padding in the narrative. To engage an audience for over two hours is a massive ask, particularly with a subject matter that is so distressing.
Eloise Jones and Georgia Imrie are bright actors, but a two-hander doesn’t work in this format. David Bain’s training as a therapist is clearly evident, as he provides many valuable insights into Alex’s state of mind. But these observations are sadly lost in a vast expanse of stage time. With some ruthless editing Dissociated could have been an excellent play; around 70 minutes would have cracked it.
Written and directed by: David Bain
Choreography by: Eloise Jones
Produced by: Skitzoid Productions
Box Office: 020 7482 4857
Booking Link: https://www.citizenticket.co.uk/event/dissociated/
Booking Until: 26 October 2019