The play that wants to change the way we treat mental illness

Laura Barnett writes for The Guardian:

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is based on a new approach called ‘open dialogue’, and replicates the experience of having an auditory hallucination

Can theatre offer a cure for psychosis? It’s unlikely – and it would be unwise for any theatre-maker even to try. What theatre can do, though, is convey the experience of psychosis: the hallucinations and delusions – often terrifying, sometimes comical – that define reality for those with schizophrenia and related conditions.

This, at least, is the belief shared by David Woods and Jon Haynes, co-founders of the theatre company Ridiculusmus. Their new show, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, examines the effects of psychosis on several members of a fictional family, using an innovative conceit. The audience is split in two, with each half sitting on either side of a dividing wall. For the first act, each half of the audience watches one scene, while another scene is performed on the other side. Later, the audiences swap places; and in the final section, the wall becomes transparent, so that both halves of the audience are watching the same scene.

The effect, at least at first, is bewildering – and that is the point. “It’s as if you’re having auditory hallucinations,” Woods tells me when we meet during rehearsals at the Basement in Brighton, where the play is beginning a national tour. “Initially it’ll be overwhelming, chaotic. Then the audience will go out of the theatre, change sides. Slowly the voices will settle into place. In a way, it’s the same with schizophrenia. You don’t get cured, but you can recover.”…

To read the rest of this article for The Guardian, follow this link

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