Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wonderful World?

I traipsed over to the Royal Court last night to see Anthony Neilson’s new play The Wonderful World Of Dissocia. Now Neilson has been making a lot of noise lately in the Guardian and elsewhere about how so many modern plays are irrelevant and dull and advising young playwrights to be, well, less boring. And while a lot of what he has to say is valid, that kind of slightly self-aggrandising, I-hold-all-the-answers talk does make people (well, me anyway) arrive at the theatre with a ‘come on then – entertain me’ attitude.

The play is about a young woman called Lisa, who in the first half is lost in her own internal world, a land called Dissocia. It’s a colourful place, where people frequently break into song and cars can fly, a wee bit Wizard of Oz, a tad Alice in Wonderland with a whole heap of League Of Gentlemen thrown on top and maybe a smidgen of The 5000 Fingers of Dr T chucked in for good measure. She’s on a quest – searching for a lost hour (the clocks went back while she was on a plane, crossing over time-zones, or something, and she ended up minus one hour, her life unbalanced as a result). Here she encounters numerous oddball characters, including a pair of Insecurity Guards and a clipboard-toting woman whose job it is to suffer pain on other people’s behalf.

The second half is completely different from what went before. Now Lisa is in hospital, having clearly suffered a psychotic episode. These scenes play out against a sterile white background, with minimal dialogue. The set is behind a glass panel and the sound is slightly distorted. It’s an effective, unsettling technique. Indeed, despite my reservations, some elements of the play work very well. And though it is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is (there are some very heavy-handed and poorly judged moments in the Dissocia scenes), it achieved Neilson’s aims – it kept me engaged. I’m not sure Neilson had anything particularly enlightening to say on mental illness, but the play in parts, both angered and amused me, it was impossible to just sit there passively soaking this stuff up, it demanded a response of some kind. Even if that response was to get quite upset and walk out as the woman sitting behind me did.

Oh, and did I mention it had a goat in it? Only not the cute fluffy kind like in The Rose Tattoo, no – this goat was a very bad goat that did very bad things. I certainly did not want one of these. The singing polar bear on the other hand…


Juice said...

I thought that some parts worked quite well. The colourful and playful dissocia contrasted wonderfully with the sterile white hospital ward. I found the second half very stop start and the lighting very unsettling for the audience. Quite disorientating really and if that was intentional then i thought that was quite clever. Personally i didnt think that dissocia was that wonderful. I didnt find it that funny to be honest. I guess i have a hard time buying into peoples "zaniness". Its like watching saturday morning kids tv. People trying too hard to be way out there. Never the less the first half did have alot of enery about it. Most of the time however i just wasnt suprised enough by what was happening to laugh and i agree what the scape goat was trying to do wasnt funny at all. I wasnt sure really what the big point of the play was. Perhaps it was about society's intolerance of individuality and need to control those who do not conform. Perhaps its about peoples attitudes to mental illness. i think my sense of regret for lisa's predicament at the end would have been more effective had i found disscoia more appealing. Nevertheless i thought it was quite good.

One last thing i wasnt quite sure what all the hour business was about and why vince was the black dog. I have a theory on it but im not too sure. Also was the black dog reference a nod to churchil?

Juice said...

sorry its quite late so i couldnt be bothered to structure my post.

Ive never been a fan of league of gentlemen style strangeness. Its a bit too quirky for my liking. Disscoia felt like a series of sketches and i never quite understood other than in a broadest sense how dissocia all fitted together.

I know its suggested that dissocia exists because lisa isnt taking her medication but im still not sure why she was searching for the hour and who had taken it away and for for what purpose. Im not sure whehter im just being dim about it.

Also i think whilst i found the play on words oh its a scape goat! or time flies! mildly diverting i didnt think it was laugh out loud funny. What i did like about hte first half was the polar bear and lisas song about time where shes conducting her own song. Those were nice moments and how the first half ends.

What i wanted from the story was to see the two halves linked together better and to have dissocia better realised. So rather than justing being a place full of colour and eccentrics it actually represented something and the characters and visual effect had some meaning. Whilst i admire the ambition of having singing polar bears in one half and a serious hospital based setting in the second half i do think it could have been put together better. Perhaps the what the director wanted was for people to wonder whether its better to be sane or mentally ill and so break down the taboo. I dont know. As always i go to the theatre and often come back befuddled!

Juice said...

do i mean play on words?

What im triyng to say is when peopel take a literal meaning to something that isnt meant to be taken literally.

So you have a scape goat as a goat

time flies and well flies

not sure what you call it when people do that.

Juice said...

p.s i know my friend donna thought it was the most brilliant thing ever. Interesting yes,entertaining yes. brilliant no.

Interval Drinks said...

I agree. I liked parts of it an awful lot but found other aspects of it very irritating and quite lazily written.

Black dog is usually used as a term for depression, but I don't know why her boyfriend was the black dog in her mind, it makes the ending a little more sinister.

Juice said...

Hey tash,

Do you think it was very funny?

Also i reckon the polar bear sounded a bit like stephen hawkings


Interval Drinks said...

I laughed in places but thought the humour in the first half felt rather forced and awkward. Second half made it all worthwhile though.

Juice said...

I thought the first half reminded me a bit of a school production/panto type thing but each to their own i suppose.

Statler said...

Finally got round to seeing this in Edinburgh today and was surprisingly underwhelmed given the strong responses (positive and negative) I'd read elsewhere.

The Dissocia segment had three problems for me - the "funny" wasn't funny enough, the "dark" wasn't dark enough, and it was seriously overlong.

The second act worked well and did at least engage me and I suspect if I had only seen it I'd have loved it, but it couldn't make up for the first half of the show.

Glad I saw it but it can't say it had an impact on me.