The Wonderful World Of Dissocia encompasses the extremities of mental health in a polarising, mind bending way. Lisa, the protagonist, enters a world of temporal confusion in which she has to find her ‘missing hour’ in order to restore balance to her life.
The audience is thrown into a state of bewilderment, lead through the play by a string of reality created by the witty dialogue and plays on familiar words and concepts. I feel this is exactly what the directors intended, for the audience to have an experience as alienated and surreal, yet as intimate as Lisa’s.
“creating a disjunctive and occasionally terrifying experience for the audience”
The levels of distortion were maintained through all mediums, from the instant disorientation caused by the actors’ voices offstage and the continuous mayhem of sound from all angles, creating a disjunctive and occasionally terrifying experience for the audience.
The pandemonium of Dissocia is continuously punctuated by reminders from Lisa’s real world – the call from her sister creates a bridge between the two worlds, and other symptoms of mental health illness (such as migraines and panic attacks) are signified by a blaring red light, intruding on her idyllic world.
“Even in these moments of lightness, however, we experience a rightful sense of unease”
We are constantly wrenched into moments of intense darkness and fear, then almost inappropriately interrupted by uplifting songs, which add a haunting relief to the performance. Even in these moments of lightness, however, we experience a rightful sense of unease.
The degrees of mental health were cleverly broken down, with characters embodying its various aspects, such as the insecurity guards, or self deprecation through Jane, who willingly subjects herself to violent acts of abuse.
“The puppets were skilfully mastered, creating an entirely different medium”
Puppet characters captured the way mental health disorders can seem like they take your every day abilities, such as the loss of humour, or of argument, which were looked at in a comical, yet astute way. The puppets were skilfully mastered, creating an entirely different medium for understanding human thought and interaction.
Multi-roling augmented the idea it was Lisa’s dystopia, as characters from her every day life creep their way into her mental hallucinations – the much feared character of the ‘black dog’ is later revealed as her abusive partner. The parts of Lisa’s reality are altered to different characters in her mind, as we aim to make sense of her two realities.
Where it could be argued that the jovial, caricatured extremities of Dissocia both trivialise and inaccurately portray the hardships of mental illness, the unexpected dark turn of the ‘scapegoat’ raping Lisa punctuates the carnival-esque tone, and reminds us again of the nightmarish and chaotic elements of her suffering.
“The further into the monotony of the second act we go, the more we too are convinced that Dissocia was just an illusion”
The second half was deliberately and devastatingly bleak in contrast to the first, with stark lighting and set only broken up by loud, jarring blackouts, which navigated Lisa’s mechanical routine post-Dissocia.
The magic of the performance was lost with the loss of Lisa’s ability to think, giving us an accurate portrayal of how the mind is numbed with medication. The further into the monotony of the second act we go, the more we too are convinced that Dissocia was just an illusion, so far removed from the whitewashed scene before us as it is.
“The play sends a crucial message on the way mental health is dealt with clinically”
The play delivers a crucial message on the way mental health is dealt with clinically; the audience revels in Lisa’s illness, and is forced to reject her normal life. This suggests the approach we have to it today is potentially wrong, making us question our own normalised constructs.
Featured image courtesy of The Nottingham New Theatre Facebook page.
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