TAKIN OVER THE ASYLUM
by Dona Franceschild.
Citizens’ Theatre 19 Gorbals Street G5 9DS To 9 March 2013.
TICKETS: 0141 429 0022.
then Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX 19 March-6 April 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 20, 23, 27, 30 Mar, 3, 6 Apr.
Audio-described 28 Mar (+ Touch Tour .30pm), 30 Mar 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 1.15pm).
BSL Signed 3 Apr 7.45pm.
Captioned 6 Apr 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 26 March, 27 March 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 March.
Ever-moving, and ultimately moving, life in a ward.
Adapted from her 6-part 1994 TV series, Donna Franceshild’s play can seem a Caledonian Cuckoo’s Nest, contrasting control and liberty – or order and anarchy – in a psychiatric ward. Here, the trick is that matters are stirred-up by a Hospital DJ re-opening the broadcasting studio annexed to the ward.
Eddie deals with fascinated patients while trying to disguise his daytime moonlighting from his job selling double-glazing. Finding his feet, seeing off Scott McKay’s suspicious Nurse, learning from techno-whizz patient Fergus and perhaps especially managing the hyper phases of bipolar Campbell’s eager assistance, ‘soul survivor’ Eddie also has alcohol stacked against him. He’s in the right place, where coping with inadequacy seems more like life as it should be than the nervy manner of Molly Innes’ administrator Evelyn, seeking to keep the place organised.
The TV origins show, despite some new material; highs and lows can come compressed, with dramatic mood-swings that would mean medication in a patient, and some characters with little to do on stage, though Lucy Hollis has a fearsome stare, building towards her moment of challenge, and Gregor Firth gives Hector a firm background presence.
All troubled human life is here; alongside the humour, sometimes rooted in joyous self-awareness among the patients, sometimes in pure escapade, there is interwoven tragedy. Of the inventive escapee whose (sometimes literal) flights are followed, in his own logic, by returns, until his hopes are dashed, or sympathetic self-harmer Francine, contrasting Rosalie, with her comic compulsion over hygiene.
But patient problems are never exploited for laughs; however other people might respond, they are part of life for the individuals themselves, and often – as with Eddie, from the outside world – they learn to live with them. Certainly, Mark Thomson’s cast give the play a lived-in feel. This room does seem their place – only staff members look formal or awkward. Iain Robertson’s Eddie, downbeat about life if upbeat about soul, Brian Vernel’s active Campbell looming cheerily around, Helen Mallon’s Francine evasive over her injuries or Caroline Paterson’s hand-wiping Rosalie, along with the others, are treated with a vulnerable dignity that gives depth to their characters.
Hector: Gregor Firth.
Margaret: Lucy Hollis.
Evelyn: Molly Innes.
Aileen: Gayle Madine.
Francine: Helen Mallon.
Stuart: Martin McCormick.
Fergus: Grant O’Rourke.
Rosalie: Caroline Paterson.
Eddie: Iain Robertson.
Campbell: Brian Vernel.
Nurse: Scott McKay.
Director: Mark Thomson.
Designer: Alex Lowde.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Assistant director: Caro Donald.