Theatre: Give Me Your Love @ The Tobacco Factory
by Danni Gillespie
Mental health is an important yet so often obscured part of modern life. Whist efforts are attempting to bring mental health out of the shadows it’s still very much a hard thing to talk about, a hard thing to deal with and not always a subject matter that is portrayed in a nuanced manner. Many people know the stereotypes of schizophrenia, depression and PTSD but these often far from the truth.
Ridiculusmus Theatre Company conjured a truly convincing portrayal of PTSD. There were few stereotypical elements of what you would expect, it wasn’t a war veteran seeing the faces of his friends in everyone he saw or diving in the middle of the street due to PTSD-fuelled imaginings, but a truly troubled man who was trapped in his mind-set. He had meltdowns, incomprehensible moments and moments of comedy like someone with PTSD would. It’s always a worry when you see a film, play or read a book about mental health that what you are presented with isn’t a person with a condition but a stereotype of a condition fit around a person. To see the former done was a real delight.
"We journey with the pair through pain, despair, comedy and singing."
During the production you never saw a face (save one scene). Zach, our ex-military protagonist played by Dave Woods, was always inside a cardboard box; you often saw his feet, legs or arms but never his face. Carol (Zach’s wife) was always in the room next door and never seen, and Ieuan (Zach’s friend and ex-veteran himself) was always behind the door with the safety chain still attached, only a hand or arm in view at any one time (both characters played by Jon Haynes). All emotion was conveyed vocally, physically and with the genius use of lighting from Richard Vabre.
The story is open to interpretation; Zach and Ieuan are self-trialling treating Zach’s PTSD with MDMA after hearing about research suggesting it has theaptupic properties on CNN. Carol had her reservations, as many do when it comes to battling the stigma around illegal substances as therapeutic treatment: a growing research area. Woods says “one of the things we’re in might be a mind-set… it’s a mind-set fuelled by fear of the unknown; not just the effects of the drug but of the situation that people who need help are in.”
We journey with the pair through pain, despair, comedy and singing. Zach offers a couple of explanations for what caused his trauma, dismissing each as saying what he thought Ieuan “wanted to hear” – a common problem during therapies for mental health. What really could’ve happened is left up to you. But this isn’t the focus of the production; it’s not a mystery to solve before being neatly wrapped up in a finale – it’s about Zach “getting out of whatever [he’s] in”, the box poses the metaphor for the PTSD fuelled mind-set he is trapped within.
A wonderfully well researched, well produced and well performed play. This is a must see for anyone who wants to understand the world of mental health better or wants to see something beautifully creative about a tentative topic. This show brilliantly balances comedy with the seriousness of the issue.