MADHOUSE RE:EXIT by Access All Areas
Shoreditch Town Hall (short walk from Old Street and Shoreditch High Street Stations) until 28th March
1 hr 40 minutes, no interval
Veronica Stein, 20th March, 2018.
A hell of a ride
Underneath the stately interior of Shoreditch town hall is the roller coaster that is Access All Areas’ MADHOUSE, RE: EXIT. Sitting in the waiting room of the bubblegum hued waiting area of Paradise Fields- claiming to be the new standard in social care for learning disabled ‘service users’- we have no idea how horrific and multi-faceted the journey we are about to go on is. Unfortunately for the grinning staff of Paradise Fields, an escaped patient- number 36- has decided to take us on his own tour, where we meet several iterations of patient 36 who have been cases (or rather, victims) of long-stay hospitals over many decades of misunderstanding on part of hospitals and the public. In the legacy of Mabel Cooper, an activist who galvanized the fight against these institutions, Access All Areas seeks to inform and unnerve…and they succeed.
It is immediately apparent that the entire promenade experience of Madhouse has been meticulously designed, and the follow through on the initial promise of the transportative Paradise Fields lobby is spectacular. Every single room, whether it be clinical, a nursery, or even a gigantic birdcage, is executed with the utmost detail. Indeed, all of the small elements, of which there are many, including notes that not everyone gets to see, further the aesthetic of the production as well as their agenda. And what a big agenda it is.
It is no wonder that social care for learning disabled individuals has been shocking, and Madhouse seeks to expose these horrors as well as the inherent issues in the push to privatize these services and Theresa May’s agenda to give need to those who “need it most”, when in fact, a lack of desperation does not yield care unnecessary. Some structural elements falter in furthering this mission- many bits run too long and the actual inner workings of Paradise FIelds are difficult to pick apart: is this Victorian era practice the reality of this supposedly modern hospital, or an evocative history lesson? Nevertheless, the interpretive elements add more than they detract and make their point. The most successful pieces lead to profound discomfort on the audience’s part, mostly revolving around common viewpoints that are intrinsically patronizing- the most affecting might have been in Dayo Koleosho’s performance as a ‘useless eater’: in the style of a video game, we are tasked with shooting mushy peas into his mouth before his intense, biting monologue about the expectations of his ability as someone who is learning disabled and made to be ‘useless’ through so-called care.
The 21-strong cast, director Nick Llewellyn, and dramaturg work together to create an arresting experience that is highly provocative and unabashedly bold. In the middle of our journey, we are asked by one of the staff at Paradise Fields if we have any suggestions to improve their facilities. Perhaps the best response to that question is another: ‘Have you asked your patients the same thing?. In Madhouse Re: Exit, Access All Areas asks it.
The Escapist: David Munns
The Bird: DJ Hassan
The Eater: Dayo Koleosho
The Goddess: Imogen Roberts
The Baby: Cian Binchy
Sandra: Francesca Burgoyne
Doctor: David Thackeray
Sally: Lesley Ewen
Sue: Jess Mabel Jones
Patient 36: Paul Christian, Jolene Sampson, Rachael D’Arcy, Tyson Bushe, John Danielson Fuller, Luke Fox, Rufaro Asuquo, Neil Thomas Bennet, Deen Hallissey, Kali Joy, Ellen Goodey, Lily Patterson
Singers: Adam Smith & Kali Joy
Creative Enabler & Co-Director: Hayley Hill
Creative Enabler & Co-Director: Lesley Ewen
Creative Enabler & Co-Director: Jess Mabel Jones
Creative Enabler: David Thackeray
Director: Nick Llewellyn
Dramaturg: Max Barton
Designer: Joanna Scotcher
Costume Designer: Carley Hague
Lighting Designer: Katherine Graham
Associate Lighting Designer: Stuart Glover
Movement Director: Ita O’Brien
Video Designer: Nathan Theys
Sound Designer: Jethro Cooke
Design Assistant: Cat Etchart
Lead Scenic Artist: Palona Hernandez
Scenic Artists: Chiara Pecchioli, Peter Arnold
Animator: Alex Uragallo
Birdcage Construction: Creative Network