Weird, Theatre503 – Review

WEIRD-33661786_601402060215989_6197233522856427520_nWith the influence of psychiarty in the 20th century, poor mental health – which what was previously labelled under the sweeping statements of ‘not quite right in the head’ – found more appropriate and nuanced diagnoses. Since then, ‘autism’, ‘ADHD’ and many other descriptions have made their way into everyday language. However, there is still a gap in society between hearing about poor mental health and understanding how it affects those closest to us. Written by Lucy Burke and directed by Peter Taylor, Weird looks at the arduous task of trying to live a ‘normal’ life, while coping with an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)…

Returning to Bolton early from university, Yasmin (Amy Doyle) spends most of her time indoors. Her mother has been telling everyone (including her younger sister Katie) that she’s taking some time out for a ‘gap year’. However, the ‘real’ reason for this ‘subterfuge’ takes some explaining…

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Amy Doyle

From the off, Doyle talks matter-of-factly about what’s going on in her head. How she can’t ‘turn it off’, how people react to her predilection for counting, and why she’s compelled to check everything is ‘just so’ – to protect herself and those around her. However, it’s impossible for her to convey to others her ‘thought process’ when she can’t even broach the subject in public.

While male schoolmates and ex-boyfriends feature in Weird, what stands the test of time in Yasmin’s life are her female relationships. We learn that Yasmin gets on well with her mother, who loves her dearly. However, some of what her mother does ‘in her best interest’ is debatable, and her father and mother don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Yasmin’s present relationship with Katie is very important, as it makes her think about what it was like for her younger sister growing up when their parents where giving their oldest child their ‘fullest attention’. The realisation she doesn’t really ‘know’ her younger sister spurs Yasmin to build bridges with her again. However, Yasmin’s efforts to reconnect with Katie backfire (including a very funny episode involving ‘Craig the Hamster’). Alas, the makeover Katie had in mind for Yasmin would have exposed her weight loss and other efforts to ‘stay in control’…

Without a doubt, the important relationship in Yasmin’s life – past and present – is her former touchstone, Hazel. The one person who had any inclination what Yasmin was feeling, Hazel’s love and support was unconditional. However, in this ‘post-Hazel’ world, it’s harder for Yasmin to ‘hold it together’ and she’s never felt more ‘alone’…

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While there is plenty of humour throughout Burke’s play, ‘Yasmin’ as a character always feels 100% authentic. Living with her condition, her self-awareness recognises the absurdist nature of her predicament and the bizarre things that transpire while she is trying to ‘hold it together’. While aspects of Yasmin’s life are ‘idiosyncratic’, her ‘internal monologue’ and observations about the absurdities of modern living are ‘on the money’.

While the likes of Lena Dunham and David Beckham have opened up about their OCD, talking about one’s mental health at ‘work’ or with our nearest and dearest is still a relatively taboo subject. As Weird shows, just like a physical wound, the state of one’s mental health can be exacerbated over time. And while not exactly the same as people on ‘12 Step’ programmes, there is a sense that any chance of recovery begins with that first step of asking for help…

© Michael Davis 2018

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Previews of Weird ran at Theatre 503 on 21st and 22nd July. There’s one more preview at The Bunker (Theatre) on 29th July at 6pm.

Weird will be running in Edinburgh at Venue 33, Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two, 13:45, Aug 1-13, 15-27

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/weird

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