Review – Escape Route, Kyla Kares, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 5th May 2019

Fringe FestivalMany of the shows at this year’s Fringe Festival came with trigger warnings. This show warned that it contained discussion about depression and suicide. I think, to be fair, that I also ought to give this blog review post a similar trigger warning. If you’re affected by suicide, or suicidal thoughts, please take care and breathe deeply before reading on.

Escape RouteSuicide. It’s a subject we have to talk about. The less we talk about it, the more people take their own life. As Kyla Williams tells us, in her bold and beautiful show Escape Route, suicide is the greatest killer of men under 40, but the statistics only tell us half the truth; although more men die at their own hand, many more women attempt suicide than men, which, it follows, means that many fail, maybe to be permanently injured or disabled as a result of their suicide attempt, or at least to continue to suffer the mental tortures that led them to trying suicide in the first place.

It’s a subject I’m willing to talk about, at length if need be; my friend’s sister took her own life many years ago by overdosing on paracetamol. There’s a sequence in Kyla’s performance where she describes the horrors of a “successful” paracetamol overdose, and I can confirm every word she says about how it causes a long, lingering, ghastly death. Two of my other closest friends have tried (fortunately, unsuccessfully) to take their own lives and I’m aware of the benefits of offering regular contact, and the open invitation to talk about anything. Just being there can save a life. Depression is a nasty business.

Kyla KaresWhilst there are a number of shocking, sad, even gruesome moments in the show, there are a number of elements that are wryly amusing – even thoroughly entertaining; for example, Kyla’s rendition of Peggy Lee’s classic Is that all there is? which I have to say was pure class. There are several extracts from verbatim accounts about how people live with depression which she invests with great character and emotion, using a wide range of voices and moods. She has a wonderful stage presence, and delivers her material with great conviction and commitment; and never has a red scarf been used for so many purposes with such creativity, subtlety and elegance.

Kyla makes no secret of the fact that this show is borne from much of her own experience, and it has been a difficult and sensitive journey bringing it to fruition. I can only say many congratulations to her for creating a very moving, powerful and honest show that may act as a catalyst to her and to her audience. And, always remember, keep an eye out for your friends.

Review – Unveiled, Myriad Theatre, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 5th May 2019

Fringe FestivalThere’s probably never been a time like today that the wedding dress has had such a high profile and significance in our society. I think we forked out £80 for Mrs Chrisparkle’s wedding dress back in Nineteen hundred and frozen-to-death, and it was simple, elegant and lovely. Today you’re looking at £2000 for as much bling as you can cram onto a garment. Choosing the wedding dress from the shop is also major social event, where all the girls quaff prosecco and there’s a massive show-and-tell with the bride to be getting more feedback than she really needs. Heavens above, there was even a TV show called Say Yes to the Dress! Getting prepared for a wedding is stressful enough without adding to the drama and tension with all that hoo-ha.

But there’s also another significance to the wedding dress. If you’re ready, willing and able to get married and you’re fully happy about it, then, hurrah. But if you’re not, if you have doubts, maybe you thought that by now you’d love him, but you still don’t quite, or maybe you’ve started to go off him…. that’s when the wedding dress can take on an ogreish significance. Then there’s the miserable, caustic aunt, who always says you look fat in that dress, or you’re much too old for that style, and other confidence-boosting remarks. Why would you take her along to watch you try on wedding dresses? It’s just asking for trouble. You can tell one thing: this girl isn’t happy.

Myriad TheatreAnd that – presumably – is why we see Myriad Theatre’s Isabella Hunt, lying on the floor, writing words of distress over a plain white dress, before scooping another four wedding dresses off the rail, trying them on, taking them off and then generally writhing on the floor with them. In the end she stands in silence in the plain white dress that she has vandalised with graffiti. No comment (either by her, or, I sense, the audience.)

There’s an element of promise and expectation when you enter the room for this performance; the chairs each have an elegant number written on them, such as you might find in the seating plan for a wedding reception; and the floor is strewn with those delicate, colourful little odds and ends that people scatter on tables to give it a celebratory look.

Sadly, however, the creativity seems to stop there. Unveiled turns out to be nothing more than seventeen minutes of taking dresses on and off, writhing around the floor in agony, a very repetitive physical theatre element that I think represented a struggle (I stopped watching after the fourth time – it may have gone on for at least another half dozen times) and a few minutes of general spoken wedding/marriage angst. This is a very undeveloped piece, with few ideas that don’t go anywhere. An opportunity not taken, very disappointing, and a bit of a cheek to ask the general public to pay to see it.

P. S. Mrs C was not happy at paying £5.50 for 17 minutes of rather poor performance; that’s almost £20 an hour pro-rata and you can get much better value elsewhere.

Review – Godspeed, Far from Home Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 5th May 2019

Fringe FestivalFor the last three plays in the Fringe Festival I was joined by Mrs Chrisparkle (it was a Sunday after all) dipping her toe into this festival for the first time. Fortunately for both of us, we started with a good one!

GodspeedFar from Home’s Godspeed, is an inventive and creative one-man play by and with Fox Neal as Ishmael Constant (which sounds like a mathematical law), trained by the military and space authorities to undertake a twelve-year journey to investigate a hole in the universe – The Anomaly. His quest is to go through the hole if possible and see what’s on the other side. He is to report back if he can; he is not expected to return home, so he’ll spend his final days like David Bowie’s Major Tom, sitting in his tin can far from the world. His only companion is a chatty, nauseously upbeat computer whom they christen Virgil; but Virgil isn’t entirely to be trusted. He gives Ishmael regular psychological health checks – and does Virgil detect that our hero might have an alternative agenda? Does that explain his attachment to his crucifix? And will he be able to get through the Anomaly and see for himself what’s there?

Far From Home TheatreInterspersed with this surprisingly exciting story are flashbacks to Ishmael’s childhood, with his warring parents – one religious, one not – and the effect of their unhappy divorce on him; and his time spent in the military, where he meets another trainee, Shay, who calls him her Space Cowboy, but refuses his offer of marriage because she has to go off on tours of duty without him. Mr Neal plays Ishmael centre stage for most of the time, keeping time with a recording of all the other voices in his story, a technical feat of high precision which he achieves brilliantly. Particularly impressive were the recordings of his parents’ muffled arguments, such as a child might hear behind a closed door, and the shatteringly effective last words that Ishmael hears from his beloved Shay.

Mr Neal invests Ishmael with finely observed characterisation; a frustrated, understated, angry, resigned and bewildered man who’s going to do his best for the world if he possibly can – whilst achieving his own private ambition as well. It’s a strong, gripping performance and he, together with all the other entertaining recorded voices from other members of the 3rd Year, keeps us totally engaged in his story from start to finish. This is another production that you could easily pick up and plonk down in Edinburgh where I think it would be a great success. Congratulations all round!

Review – 42 Church Lane, Battered Lemon Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 3rd May 2019

Fringe FestivalWhilst people are generally familiar with – and indeed love to trace – their family trees, there’s a growing interest in working out the genealogy of one’s home too. I spent most of the first twenty-six years of my life living in a pub that was estimated to have been built in 1535. We had a priest’s hole, and a ghost; buy me a pint one day and I’ll tell you all about what George the Ghost did for us.

But that’s for another occasion. Battered Lemon Theatre Company’s 42 Church Lane does exactly what it says on the tin; it gives you an insight into three periods of that property’s history – 1941, 2016 and 2027 (which, I know, isn’t exactly history, but you get my drift). Arthur comes home from the war early, injured, to the delight of his mother and sisters, although his little nephew Frank didn’t survive the Blitz. Megan and Jamie have just moved into their first place together, but already cracks in their relationship are beginning to show. Doctor Mia has taken advantage of the new privatised NHS to set up her own clinic at No 42, inoculating all and sundry with the MMR vaccine – and business has never been so brisk. But there are secrets, at every stage and in every age, and it would be best if they were never discovered.

42 Church LaneNot only is this terrific play beautifully written, but its construction is superb, with the way that its various scenes dovetail one another through the decades. One minute Megan and Jamie will be arguing only suddenly to become mother and daughter in the 40s. Another time wounded soldier Arthur will be teasing with his sister and then she becomes Dr Mia and he’s her journalist friend Alex. This might sound confusing, but with lighting cues and costume changes it’s all as clear as a bell. There’s even a scene towards the end where the words of 1941 become the words of 2016, as though you can actually hear the ghosts of the past haunting the present.

The excellent cast work hard to emphasise all the drama and tension of the plot. There’s a harrowing scene where one of the characters self-harms, and another when the horrors of war bring on an PTSD attack (surprisingly neither was mentioned in the trigger warnings). Books get ripped up, records get smashed and there’s a highly effective knock-at-the-door suspense (reminded me of the Porter in Macbeth) that affects two decades at the same time. The three scenes, where the abuse of trust that has been building is most noticeably revealed, from all three eras, are all performed with gripping tension and agonising sadness.

Battered LemonThe performances are excellent throughout. Amy Catherine excels as the hard-nosed pharmaceutical physician Mia, tentatively wondering whether there’s a future in the on-off friendship with Alex, whilst working nineteen to the dozen getting all the vaccinations done, and with her bedside manner slipping drastically under pressure. Samuel Jordan gives a fine performance as the cautious Alex and as the lame Arthur, thrilled to be home in the bosom of his family, no matter what it took to get there.

De-Anna Matthews cuts an essentially tragic figure as the out of place Ruth, mourning her child, being replaced at work, torn between family loyalty and a need to take some kind of revenge for Frank’s death. Erin Thorpe is excellent as the mother and the mentally abused Jamie, pathetically caving into Megan’s demands; and, perhaps with the stand-out performance, Shannon Couchman makes a devastatingly terrifying Megan, who switches from manipulative control freak to being a severely vulnerable victim herself, and also as the baby of the family Lily, curled up on the floor to listen to stories or playing hysterically with her cuddly toys.

Terrific performances, and a beautifully devised play. Congratulations all on a great job!

P. S. The Saffron Restaurant sells Indian, not Chinese food. #JustSaying!

Review – Paris la Nuit, Nostalgia Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, Hazelrigg House, Northampton, 1st May 2019

Fringe FestivalLocked away in the cold, dark, dank basement of Hazelrigg House is not the most comfortable of locations but I can’t think of anywhere more perfect for Nostalgia Theatre Company’s production of Paris La Nuit. Even the stale smell of cigarettes and vin de pays that greets you conjures up a murky, tawdry bar in an unfashionable district of the French capital, where Jean Clement plays jazz for his regulars until war comes and he signs up. But on his return years later, he is startled by the appearance of a young orphaned boy, Mathieu, living in his old bar. Traumatised into speechlessness, terrified of his shadow, he’s just trying to find a place to survive. Kind-hearted Clement can’t kick the boy out, so he gets him to wait tables in return for his bed and board. The friendship develops between the two as Mathieu comes to regard Clement more and more as a father figure, but is it a bond that can withstand Clement’s past catching up with him?

Paris La NuitFor a period feel, this absolutely scores ten out of ten. Rickety tables, odd vintage crystal wine glasses, Parisian pictures, open cigarette cases, plus a plinky-plonk piano and a bar that has seen better days – the attention to detail is formidable et magnifique. With memories of Piaf, and an impromptu performance of Charles Trenet’s La Mer, the whole performance has a Gallic charm and vulnerability that truly stands out. There are moments of humour too, such as in the boy’s reaction to Clement’s liaison with a lady of the night, and his earnest, scrupulous cleaning of the tables.

Jean et MathieuSamual Gellard’s performance as Clement is authoritative, calm, measured, sensitive and you really feel you know exactly what makes him tick. Either his French accent is terrible, or, he’s doing a brilliant impersonation of someone from a region of France where the accent is terrible! Either way he still delivers much of the dialogue in fast, confident French, deliberately difficult enough to challenge any audience member who got A level French over forty years ago. But I was able to follow much of the dialogue, so kudos to both him and me for that. The unnamed young actor who plays Mathieu is absolutely brilliant, his facial expressions providing all the eloquence he needs to get his meanings across. And the two of them together provided some surprisingly touching moments. That must have been cigarette smoke in my eye.

At times I did find the story a little hard to follow; I wasn’t quite sure who it was who was catching up with Clement, and whether the money being extorted was simply a protection racket or a blackmail for something he’d done. But, at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter, and any fog in the storyline was a perfect reflection of the fog in his jazz bar. Two charming and convincing performances that waft you away to a distant world of the chanteuse, the raconteur and late night Pernod. Bien fait, mes amis!

Review – I Believe, OVM – Our Voices Matter, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 1st May 2019

Fringe FestivalThere was advance additional information sent out to the audience members of I Believe. First – wear black party attire, because it’s a celebration of black excellence. I wore my black Levis, black Loïc Nottet t-shirt, and casual black tuxedo. Even if I say so myself, I looked pretty nifty for someone who’s got an AWFULLY big birthday coming up next year. Talking of which, the second advance notice was to bring ID. No ID, no entry, them’s the rules. I haven’t been asked my ID since the 1980s, but, as a naturally obedient chap, I brought my passport. Just as well, as it was the first thing that the no-nonsense nightclub manager asked for when I got to the front door. I knew she was going to be trouble later on.

Receiving that advance information helps give you expectations about what’s to follow, which meant, for me, that I was really looking forward to seeing this show. And what Na-Keisha Glenn and her OVM team have created is a very strong sense of occasion, using the basement nightclub at the Platform to its fullest extent, with rows of complementary drinks on the bar, proper loud R&B through the speakers, dazzling disco lights, gregarious welcome hosts Joycelyn and Azreal, snazzy MC Black Dynamite singing and dancing on stage, and “token white girl” Rosemarie giving it large on the decks. Although you knew it was an artificial situation, a play, it felt 100% real. So when innocent young Lisa turns up, and there’s a bit of a rumpus on the dance floor, and she’s escorted away, you really feel as though you’re watching a genuine event unfold before your eyes.

I BelieveLisa’s young. She’s naïve. She’s heard that R. Kelly is coming to Northampton and she cannot believe her luck that she’s going to meet her hero. She’s got all the merch. And she’s prepared his song I Believe I Can Fly to sing to him. Would we like to hear it? Of course we would. She’s got a great singing voice. She really could become a star. Especially if he spends some time with her.

Vignettes of a harrowing night out, with vicious bouncers, assault, violence and a terrifying abrupt ending which stuns us into silence, all framed by a fun party with mates to cool music in a sophisticated club, the stark contrast of the pleasure and the pain is very powerfully presented. After we clearly witness an abduction, with the victim kicking and screaming, and no one is helping her, I said to Joycelyn that I was worried about her and should we see that she’s ok, but Joycelyn replied that, no, she’s just a teenager kicking off… And that’s how easily violence and assault can be overlooked. Alongside these scenes we hear genuine radio news reports about the allegations against R. Kelly, as well as reading posters on the way out about how he has used his position of influence to abuse underage girls. Sadly, that naïve young Lisa is probably just one of many to have their innocence taken away so wickedly. As for Joycelyn and Azreal, in real life they’re two girls who have lived with R. Kelly for many years. No wonder our Joycelyn wasn’t bothered to step in to help someone who was clearly in trouble.

Na-Keisha GlennPerforming most of these roles is Na-Keisha Glenn and she is superb. A terrific singer, a strong stage presence, and a beautifully clear and expressive speaking voice, she is definitely One To Watch. Lesley ‘Rietta’ Cobbina, Nicolle Harris, and Elias Chambers provide great support as the rest of the nightclub performers. A unique entertainment with a forceful message, and unquestionably a highlight of this year’s Fringe Festival.

Review – Mein Hodenkrebs, Light in the Dark Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 1st May 2019

Fringe FestivalIf you’re of a certain vintage, like myself, you might remember The Numskulls. They appeared in (I think) The Topper comic, and they were a bunch of little men who lived inside another guy’s body, and each week you could read their hilarious escapades as they channelled blood in and out of his heart in buckets, made his legs work, grew hairs out of his ears, gave him dumb thoughts, and so on. Light in the Dark Theatre Company’s Mein Hodenkrebs made me think of these little guys instantly.

Basically, you’ve got two concurrent series of events going on. Zak is mourning the death of his best mate, skulking in his room, having too much to drink and going out on the razz; having unprotected sex, accidentally acquiring a boyfriend, and ignoring the fact that one of his testicles is growing a lump. Medical examination reveals that he does indeed have testicular cancer, requiring chemotherapy. Has he caught the cancer in time, or will he end up dead like his mate? That story is shown completely in video, played on a big screen above the stage.

Mein HodenkrebsMeanwhile, on the stage, the four actors – Ben Loftus, David Wallace, Giacomo Galbiati and Kyle Lawson – play various roles in a series of scenes that show the journey of the cancer gene through Zak’s body; starting at the rectum, working its way via the lymph nodes to the lungs, and ending up with a grand, Eisenstein-like Battle of the Chemo. It’s a clever idea, and there’s no shortage of energy or commitment by the company into making every scene visually or linguistically eccentric. There’s also an attempt to weave the current political climate into the script, but that made it feel like it was on the fence between being a political satire and a comedy about the body’s defences. It works in part, although they do the idea to death. I did laugh at the ironic “exit means exit” line, though.

However, the live scenes – especially the big battle – went on a very long time, and I do think this show would have benefited from some severe pruning. The shrieking, falsetto voices that some of the actors adopted from time to time – reminiscent of Monty Python’s Hell’s Grannies – actually made it impossible to understand their lines. Some scenes simply came across as gross and puerile; you could understand the seed of humour buried underneath, but it was forced and rushed, and the humour never had time to land. The guys have a lot of ideas that they’re trying to express, but in the end they all got trampled on in a drive for excess.

Light in the Dark Theatre CompanyWhich is a shame, because the recorded video was absolutely superb. Crisp, funny, ascerbic, gruesome, and emotional at the end when Zak’s friend’s ashes are finally scattered. The blurry double vision to convey the sense of drunkenness was very effective, and kudos to the actor (not sure who it was) who was prepared to go bottom-out into the street whilst being filmed (much to the surprise of the passer-by). A shortened edit would be a perfect advisory video for guys to remember to check for lumps and bumps and not be scared of going to the doctor.

I always say that I prefer a brave failure to a lazy success, and there’s no doubt that there was plenty of bravery on show. There were some quieter, subtler characterisations that were more effective – for example, the boyfriend on the video, the Gollum guard, the Chief Sperm, and the sensible gene that wants to kill the cancer cell – performed variously (I think) by Messrs Lawson and Loftus. But good comedy is probably the most difficult thing for a group of actors to achieve – and I’m afraid this proved it. What makes someone laugh is very subjective, and the whole live action element was simply too frantic, ragged and maniacal for me.

Review – Can’t Quite Hit It, Rumble Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 30th April 2019

Fringe FestivalUnnecessary insights into the life of a reviewer that you don’t need to read #352a: for my tenth birthday (all those decades ago) my parents bought me a drum set – second hand, naturally. I’d always wanted one. The drums were decorated with a glitzy veneer and were a cream colour except for my favourite side drum which was bright red. I had a foot cymbal and a big top cymbal. I had a snare drum and a big bass drum. I had wooden sticks and soft brushes. And I absolutely loved it. I played my own interpretation of the drum accompaniments to many of my favourite tunes – in fact my performance of Clodagh Rodgers’ Jack in the Box (don’t judge me) was second to none. And, on a more serious note, it provided a safe (if noisy) way to express all those teenage angsts and frustrations especially when my dad died. I bashed out my unhappiness on those drums for hours on end.

Can't Quite Hit ItI tell you this because I’m sure Leah, whose story is told in Rumble Theatre’s Can’t Quite Hit It, would approve. Mind you, her parents paid for drum lessons, which was more than mine did. That’s probably why she’s so good. And no wonder she wanted to become a serious, professional drummer when she grew up. Of course, everyone suffers obstructions to their ambitions, and Leah is no different. That’s why she ended up working at KFC. When Leah’s frustrated, she turns to Tears for Fears’ Shout – and why wouldn’t you? And then there’s Rob. The ghastly Rob. Rob, with the gormless face, who beats her at the drum-off audition. But Leah always comes up trumps in the end.

Rosemarie SheachRosemarie Sheach’s performance as Leah is a complete joy from start to finish. Honest, eloquent, with a terrific sense of humour, she completely owns the character and the stage and you can’t take your eyes off her. Can’t Quite Hit It shows us, warts and all, how, when someone is wrapped up in their music it can become their armour against adversity, their solace in times of trouble, and their prime means of expression. Through reminiscences of old conversations, we get a full understanding of Leah’s homelife, what her parents are like, her desires and frustrations, as well as some superbly entertaining and skilful drumming!

LeahShe has a triumphant happy-to-be-drumming smile (and a great contrast to Rob’s can’t-quite-keep-up grimace) which you know would get Leah through all the troubles life can chuck at her. A lesson in never giving up, this is a heart-warming, life-enhancing performance, which culminates in a wonderfully assertive and powerful performance of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Certainly one of the highlights of the festival. I even got Leah’s autograph!

Review – Eve, Veto Ensemble, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 30th April 2019

Fringe FestivalVeto Ensemble’s Fringe Festival play borrows from the old Biblical story of Lilith. Jewish folklore places her as Adam’s first wife, and, according to Wikipedia, she’s a sexually wanton demon of the night. Gosh. This play, Eve, is perhaps not quite so Old Testament as that, as it tells the story, in flashbacks, of the friendship between Evie and Lily, thrown together at school. Evie was the new girl, a well-behaved swot; and Lily was what my mother would have called a “good-time girl”, the drug-taking, house-breaking type. When Evie agrees to do Lily’s homework for her if Lily agrees to take her to a party, neither of them could have seen the consequences of their actions. But, after the consumption of a ton of alcohol, Eve meets Adam at the party, and, having blacked out from the drink, her only memory on waking up is asking him to stop. But he doesn’t. It’s rape. But will Evie be believed? And, as disaster follows disaster, where will a line of coke take her?

This robust, sometimes funny, occasionally horrific play incorporates many technical skills that Amber Winger and Rosalie Evans perform with great gusto and precision. There’s a sequence set in the classroom where both of them act out a number of roles, both speaking live and lip-synching alongside pre-recorded material, which they did with terrific lightness of touch, convincingly recreating the characters of the crude boys in class as well as the teacher. There are also some scenes with very engaging contemporary movement performed in unison, combined with some stream of consciousness talk – I’m thinking about the excellent scene that followed the cocaine binge, which cleverly blurred feelings of control and reality into chaos.

EveThe play emphasises the age-old expectations about women’s role in society – in other words, men’s privileges that continue to this day despite efforts towards equality and because of the authority that men continue to assume. From the cat-calling in school, to Adam’s inability to understand (or care about) sexual consent and the subsequent disbelieving police interviewer, you can see how this behaviour is ingrained and shows few signs of improvement. And sadly, as we discover twenty years on, even with greater general awareness of the issue, the recurrence of rape, where the authorities don’t believe the woman, still continues.

Ms Winger and Ms Evans perform together perfectly, with great unity, and obviously have complete trust in each other which is always a delight to witness on stage. They both bring great character strengths to their roles, Ms Winger expressing perfectly the fragility and lack of confidence that young Evie feels, and the utter helplessness of not being believed. Ms Evans, on the other hand, has a steely look that suggests she could take on all-comers, daring others to disapprove of her lifestyle, although even she is eventually shocked at what happens.

Rosalie Evans and Amber Winger in EveThe play ends with a thought-provoking and witty poem, delivered alternately line by line by both performers, sharply and snappily, and your final thoughts are of frustration at the inequality between the sexes, sadness for Evie’s prolonged predicament, and an appreciation of two very fine performances. Very thought-provoking and smart throughout!

Review – Welcome to my World, The Realistic Theatre Company, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 29th April 2019

Fringe FestivalI thought I had never come across the specific condition of Dissociative Identity Disorder before – and that’s because it’s what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with modern developments! It’s one of many mental health conditions that, if you’re not personally affected by it, you can only thank your lucky stars. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have all those voices tumbling around inside my head, speaking the words of other people, who are not me, but using my brain and my mouth to communicate with the world, testing me with their alternative identities, challenging me with their opposing views.

Amy Da Costa’s one-woman play introduces us to Zsofia, hiding in a corner until the voices in her head agree that it’s safe to come out. She likes to Netflix and Chill with Jacob, and it seems that the two of them have a good thing going until one day Jacob confesses that he has depression; and, whichever voice it was in Zsofia’s head that heard that, didn’t like it. So she refuses his calls and doesn’t see him anymore. Other voices in her head include a well-meaning child and an unsophisticated cockney; there may be more. How can she keep all these different characters, with their various desires and demands, under any kind of control?

Welcome to my WorldMs Da Costa does a great job in giving all these individuals their own voices and characterisation. When all Zsofia’s identities rub along ok it’s almost comedic at times, as we hear the mundane conversations between two pals that live inside one head. When the voices clash, however, Zsofia’s crisis is very moving and distressing, and, sadly, there is a kind of inevitability that leads to the play’s final scene.

An excellent performance, and with only a table for support – which inventively turns into a bed, a sofa, and a bath amongst others – and which really helps our imagination run wild to appreciate Zsofia’s full situation. A hard, sometimes complex, watch but dealing with this awful condition with honesty and sincerity. Congratulations!