FringeReview UK 2017
n Psychopath Night, Jon Ronson will recount the adventure of a lifetime – the funny, terrifying and utterly compelling events that led to his bestselling book The Psychopath Test.
Is it true that psychopaths rule the world? Or have we gone labelling-crazy?
With very special guests Mary Turner Thomson and Eleanor Longden. Neither Mary nor Eleanor appear in Jon’s book, but it wouldn’t exist without them. We’re being oblique because we don’t want to spoil the extraordinary twists and turns in their stories. If you don’t know who they are, don’t Google them. The less you know the better.
Jon Ronson’s Psychopath Night is likely to be attended almost entirely by people who have read his book The Psychopath Test and therefore I had hoped that the evening would involve stories and material that wasn’t included in the original text. To a certain extent this was true, and he did present some new angles, but also there was quite a lot of repetition of content, which felt like a bit of a shame.
I suppose that when authors do book tours they often consist of readings from a book you have already read, and the main reason you pay to see them is to have a chance for a Q&A at the end and a handshake at a book signing. This show pretty much adhered to that format, but Ronson had his two guests to put more meat on the bones.
As someone who listened to the audio book of The Psychopath Test whilst driving around South Africa, hearing Ronson’s nasally sardonic tones live onstage, was pleasing on many levels. It took me back to that lovely holiday and I was also happy to see that the awkward anxiety in his voice was just the same in the flesh, as he told us a very funny story about accidentally miming a blow-job to a fourteen year old.
His first guest was Mary Turner Thomson, a woman whose husband turned out to be a bigamist and serial liar, with two families and many children by nine different women. She told her story in conversation with Jon, who drew her out about certain specifics and we got an insight into her life with a psychopath. It was an interesting conversation, though quite short and I would have actually liked to have the interview last longer, as the next bit of the show was more material I was aware of.
This wasn’t really Ronson’s fault – he was presenting content from his Audible podcast the Butterfly Effect, which is a great show, but quite possibly one that many of his fans haven’t heard. It doesn’t have anything to do with psychopaths, but delves into the murky and sad world of ‘custom porn’. This is where people pay porn stars to act out their fantasies, some of which are utterly heartbreaking, such as the man who asked to for a video telling him that suicide is never the answer.
The other guest was Eleanor Longden, a psychologist who overcame a damaging diagnosis of schizophrenia by learning both to accept and even to work with the voices in her head, rather than see them as the enemy. Her interview wasn’t really anything to do with psychopathy, but did link to the themes towards the end of Ronson’s book where he discussed the over diagnosis of mental disorders and the consequences this can have.
I think my favourite bit of the night was the Q&A session with Ronson and his interviewees, although this perhaps did not go as deep as it could have. On the way out I heard a man complaining that they should have interviewed someone with a diagnosis of psychopathy, but to be honest I don’t blame Ronson for giving this option a wide berth. I certainly wouldn’t want to tour with a ruthless and manipulative psychopath, however well they have learnt to emulate empathy and emotion.
Had I not read the book or listened to the podcasts I would have enjoyed this a lot more, as Ronson’s content is obviously great and he is a skilful journalist. However, it was still an enjoyable evening that I would recommend to anyone who has a curiosity about psychopaths or schizophrenia for that matter.