Sat. Oct 24th, 2020
My Life Closed Twice

This review was originally published on Fringe Review

Low Down

This is a story about living with Schizophrenia. A young man, Joe, develops a relentless cacophony of voices, visions and questionable media stereotypes. They are eating away at his sense of self and he’s gradually falling apart. From the noise appears a young woman in a red hoodie who holds Joe’s hand and helps him, in spite of everything, to carry on.

This life affirming play meets the taboos surrounding mental illness head-on and is an antidote to the fear and misunderstanding surrounding psychosis and mental illness.

Review

Diagnosed with Schizophrenia at 20, Joe’s life becomes a cacophony of voices and visions. From the noise appears a young woman in a red hoodie who holds Joe’s hand and helps him, in spite of everything, to carry on.

This life affirming play meets the taboos surrounding mental illness head-on and is an antidote to the fear and misunderstanding surrounding psychosis and mental illness.

As we enter the theatre, we hear low volume chattering voices, the room is darkened, the ambience is solemn, and the audience is quiet.

The show opens with Joe, sitting in a chair, headphones on and his head is in his hands. We can see that he’s not in a good place. He then tells us, calmly, how the voices started, who they were and what they said. Surprisingly the different types of voices come in a range of colours.

Some are funny, some sad. There are nonsense talkers that keep up a stream of gibberish, which can be very funny. Pheasant! And there are more stereotypical voices, telling him to hurt himself and that he’s worthless. One is the voice of his grandad.

This play powerfully demonstrates the impact the have on Joe. We learn that it’s the soft, quite voices that are the more difficult to fight against, their reasonable tone making them harder to distinguish from Joe’s own thoughts. Their message is insidious and there is no respite.

The lead actor, Joseph Hands, is convincing. Watching the show, I felt that this was his personal account. It was his life, these were his voices and this was his experience. I believed him. It wasn’t until I researched the show for this review that I found out Joe, co-wrote the piece and it’s based on his own life.

We see interludes where he interacts with health professionals, goes to group therapy and meets helpful people with clipboards. There are realistic examples of patronising therapy and doctoring by numbers.

Joe also shows us the isolationism, the fear and difficulties involved in even trying to get out of the door and just living a daily routine. How it’s easier and safer to not leave his room.

A way forward comes when Joe ‘meets’ the girl in the Red Hoodie. She becomes his friend, his champion, defender and confidant. At times childlike, whimsical and funny, sometimes angry and defiant and at others, motherly and caring. We saw her as a bored child, amusingly trying to attract Joe’s attention. Serving to make him aware of a world outside his own head. On one occasion she rides to his defence on a psychic stallion.

Through his relationship with her things become bearable, small steps become big victories. Voices are defeated, or at least pushed back into the darkness. She protects him from the harm he may do himself.

The audience is challenged on their perception of schizophrenia. We are given facts showing that a schizophrenic is more likely to harm themselves or be the victim of harm from others, than they are to hurt us. The number of sufferers is much bigger than expected.

The AV is used well. At times there is the overwhelming force of many voices talking at once. You feel your own confusion and become aware you are enduring this in a short burst. There’s a clip from TED Talk on the subject and clips of Americans defending gun violence by saying the shooter was ‘mentally ill’. These elements fit into the theme. The play’s message is enhanced and we learn and experience something we didn’t know before.

There is some dark humour interwoven that helps stop the piece becoming overwhelmingly depressing.

We are left with an understanding of what it’s like living with mental illness. How everything becomes more difficult, and how, if you’re lucky, you find a way to live with it.

This is an excellent piece of work, its well written, very well acted by both cast members. Its provocative, challenging, informative, funny and well worth seeing. Its very definitely Recommended.

Published July 27, 2019  on Fringe Review by Joe Angella

By chattychimp

The cheeky monkey responsible for this. Not a scooby what he is doing most of the time. Otherwise to found consuming, beer, cheese and biscuits. If you're passing stop and say hi.

The Chatty Chimp, where we don't do fake news, all our stories are 100% made up!