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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Wonderful World of Dissocia

This play, written and directed by Anthony Neilson is touring the country and currently playing at the Theatre Royal, York. First performed as part of the 2004 Edinburgh Festival, the National Theatre of Scotland production brings together the original cast.

Dissocia is a country, a world, of infinite possibilities, not unlike Alice’s Wonderland, and it also houses the constant threat of sudden violent acts. It stretches your mind and your imagination, showing you all kinds of sensual beauty and humour while not letting you forget that there is much to fear. It is a metaphor for mania, a debilitating mental illness.

In the second half of the play, Lisa Montgomery Jones (Christine Entwisle), our patient and guide of the first-half, has left Dissocia behind and is hospitalized and undergoing drug therapy. She is hapless, sluggish, enslaved, numb, sad.

Although the play deals head-on with the subject of mental illness, its core is about the experiences of sensation and numbness, which are familiar to all of us.

The two halves of the play are a collage. You have to put them together. And the result is intensely moving.

Anyone interested in theatre and the state of modern theatre should see this play. It is quite unlike anything else you are likely to see on the British stage. The first half is a surrealistic riot of colour and sound, the outpourings of Lisa’s mind, a progression of contemporary cultural references. And the shock and dramatic impact when the curtain rises on the bleak and sealed second half of the play allows the cast to drive their message home in little more than whispers.

With: Christine Entwisle, James Cunningham, Alan Francis, Amanda Hadingue, Jack James, Claire Little, Matthew Pidgeon, and Barnaby Power.
Design: Miriam Buether
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan
Sound/Composer: Nick Powell
Presented by the National Theatre of Scotland
22nd to 26th May 2007 Theatre Royal, York
6th to 9th June Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
12th to 16th June Northern Stage, Newcastle

After the performance last night the cast, together with writer/director Anthony Neilson, stayed behind for a discussion with about a hundred die-hards from the audience. Many members of the cast were visibly exhausted, having given their all in a series of very demanding roles. But all were obviously in another sense, invigorated with the excitement of being involved in such an imaginative and stirring production.

All in all, then, it was a good night, a night to remember. A privilege.

2 Responses to “The Wonderful World of Dissocia”

  1. Jerry Prager says:

    I have often had to deal with family members in dissocia, my mother and brother in particular, and myself by extension. The first act and the second act each carry their own weight, the mania of a life needing to be lived in every obsessed-upon detail, and the life not worth living in the chemical solutions of institutional inhumanity.
    Humans are associational lifeforms, we thrive on communities of location and communities of interest, but we also dissociate from them in our very individuality, and somehow, in some people, our associational nature begins from a deeply dissociative place, and everything in the universe gets swept up in the vortexes that swirl around our otherness, I and Thou, and you and we, and all in all becomes more than a mind can stand or loved ones can endure.

    There need to be plays about this, if Dissocia ever swims across the Atlantic and up the St Lawrence and through Lake Ontario and leaps like a mighty fish to spawn above Niagara Falls, north of Lake Erie up the Grand River to play at my door then I shall attend in your name and know myself well advised.

    jb says: Hi Jerry. This is no ordinary play. I’m sure, sooner or later, it will be coming your way.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful show. I sure hope it makes it to Pennsylvania.