Thursday, April 05, 2007
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…