Hen and Chickens Theatre
OCD always feels like a mental health issue that people find fair game for mockery; the one that we hear joked about all the time, as if it isn’t really that serious. But as Rex (Megan King) explains, just because you’re late for work one time because you went back home to check you’d turned the cooker off does not make you OCD, it makes you normal. Yet people feel fine to make that comparison – admit it, we’ve all said it at one time or another.
As you may have already worked out, Million Piece Jigsaw is all about Rex and her life-affecting OCD. We follow her through a series of support group meetings as she opens up about her illness. The simple yet effect set makes it more than obvious we’re at a support group; six chairs arranged in a circle, to the side a table with biscuits and squash. It’s a simple thing, but with most Camden Fringe shows being very limited in budget such little touches can make a world of difference and avoid the need to spend unnecessary time setting the scene out in words.
We learn Rex is an over-sharer and chatterbox. But most of all she is a checker. It’s not just a case of ‘oh did I shut the door when I left home?’ Hers is a full-on panic-inducing anxiety about every tiny detail, to the point that it affects every single aspect of her life. This is a real illness and absolutely not something to be mocked.
King’s performance is the highlight of the show. Waiting in her chair as we filter into the theatre, she is already sitting, full of nervous energy, legs twitching, hands rubbing together, chewing nails. This is someone full of anxieties about what’s coming. Then as she speeds through her weekly support group meetings, she clearly portrays someone whose mental health is up and down as fixed points in her life are disturbed. Her performance is both heart-breaking and endearing.
What perhaps is currently missing is a script with the depth required for this show to stand alone outside of a festival setting. In its current form, we have a wonderfully thought-out central character, but not quite enough else. But the seeds are clearly there to suggest this is just a matter of time and development. King’s writing touches upon family, best friend Billy, Tinder dates, but none are explored to any real extent, and all could easily be built upon to expand Million Piece Jigsaw’s world.
Where King’s writing is great is in the soft humour she brings. It instantly brings the audience into her world and has you rooting for Rex, who is a more than likeable character. Furthermore, the writing shows a deep understanding of the subject, with little flourishes giving the audience plenty of food for thought. Some of the scene transitions are vignettes of OCD behaviour; the constant checking of the front door, the flicking of power switches, the turning back and forth as she doubts herself: these little things all add lovely extra depth to the character.
Million Piece Jigsaw is already a charming and gentle play that is worth checking out. It may still be more a work in progress than a fully formed production, but surely that is what festivals such as Camden Fringe are all about – to allow young promising creatives such as Megan King the space and time to learn and develop. With just a few further rewrites here and there, building upon those threads that already show, this play could easily demand its own solo stage time in the not-too-distant future.
Written by: Megan King
Million Piece Jigsaw plays as part of Camden Fringe 2022 at 6pm until 22 August. Further information and bookings here.