12 February 2015

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland at Battersea Arts Centre was engrossing

A play called The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is obviously going to pique my interest and the description of it only made me more determined to see it.

The venue for this event was the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) which has a reputation for doing different things and doing them well, as my visit there only two days previously had shown.

I had to work in Reading that day but that proved not to be a problem as the train I get back to Richmond goes on to Clapham and the show was not due to start until 8pm so I had plenty of time to get there. The only risky bit was leaping off the train at Richmond, the limit of my return ticket to Reading, to check in on my Oyster card. Luckily, planning had nothing to do with it, there was a red Oyster card reader just by where my coach stopped and so I was able to check in and get back on to the same train.

Arriving at BAC in good time for the show also meant that I had plenty of time to eat something first. I went for something small and spicy which was good and good value. I had a beer too.

Then it was time to go upstairs to the former Council Chamber for the show. The excitement started on the way up as we were split into two groups with half of us going into one side of the chamber and the other half into the other side. The two sides were separated by just some boarding and some curtains. There was a door in the flimsy wall.

The story started on our side of the wall with a strange conversation between a mother and her two grown-up sons. They talked about domestic things like food but in an odd way and with repetition.

Then one of the sons went through the door to the other side and started talking to a doctor that we could not see but could hear clearly. This new conversation was unrelated to the previous.

The word "schizophrenia" was a clue as to what was happening but it was more complicated than that.

The two rooms may have represented two sides of one person but if we were looking at somebody's mental illness then it was not clear whose. Three of the four characters exhibited multiple personalities.

Things were complicated further when the doctor / patient conversation in the other room mentioned schizophrenia and the patient said that he knew that the proposed treatment had eradicated schizophrenia in Western Lapland because that was the name of the play that they were acting in.

There was a break after which we swapped sides so  moved from the house to the surgery. The story repeated some of what we had heard in the first half and then went further without becoming any clearer, and I am sure that was the point.

The conversations had some funny moments as well as strange ones, especially when the patient (if that is indeed what he was) told presumably delusional stories about his genius that included going to university aged nine. These conversations grabbed my attention while the confusion weaved its web around me.

It was quite some experience though quite what sort of experience it was I am finding hard to say. There were some characters and some fragments of a story but they were deliberately kept apart to create a mood rather than a narrative.

Whatever The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland was, it worked. I found it thoroughly engrossing and excitingly different.

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