Edinburgh Fringe 2011
There has to be a reason why three apparently respectable women end up in jail, drunk and incapable. Myllyaho’s dark comedy plots the descent of their seemingly ordered suburban lives into complete chaos in this well-crafted and superbly acted piece of theatre.
Chaos is the sequel to Panic, both plays from the pen of the Finnish dramaturge Mika Myllyaho. Panic looks at the story of three men entering their mid-life crisis. Chaos looks at matters from the female side of life.
Julia and Emmi are sisters. Sofia is friends with both. All are respectable women in their mid-thirties holding down professional jobs in journalism (yes, this is still a respectable profession in places like Finland), psychotherapy and teaching. So when they all end up in jail one night, there has to be a reason for it. Turns out that Sofia’s teaching job has become the victim of the cutbacks, Julia is sleeping with one of her patients and journalist Emmi is mixing booze and the anti-depressants illegally supplied by her sister.
Myllyaho’s black comedy charts the women’s descent to rock bottom through a myriad of short scenes, each focussing on one of the three characters with the others doubling up in a rich variety of roles from Sophia’s DIY obsessed husband through to Julia’s schizophrenic lover. The latter was particularly innovative with two actors to represent the opposite sides of the lover’s personality and the side that was being treated by Julia became increasingly physically incapacitated as the play wore on – a clever allegory for the mental damage that she was ironically inflicting through her ignorance of the symptoms that she was supposed to be treating.
As the story develops, so it becomes clear that the more that each woman tries to help and support the other two, the further each is driven towards a complete implosion of their everyday existence. Chaos, in other words.
Myllyaho writes contemporary, observational comedies that clearly cross language and cultural barriers – his works have been aired over twenty times in eight countries already this year. This translation by Ney Keinanen is set somewhere in suburban Scotland and lifts the lid on modern, urban womanhood, revealing the humour, stoicism and poignancy endemic in many ordinary people’s lives.
This was an excellent piece of theatre, performed by three extremely talented, freelance Scottish actors. Mary Gapinski (Sofia) was very convincing as the stressed teacher, still in awe of her mother (long since a resident of the local graveyard) as she battled to keep her school open and her life from closing in on her. Jo Freer (Julia) looked the loose-willed, slightly batty psychoanalyst she was playing and Gowan Calder (Emmi) had the haggard look of a journalist under pressure whose marriage, access to her young child and life were sliding out of her control.
The many and varied people in these women’s lives were all expertly characterised and clearly differentiated by the trio with accents, demeanour and costumes all carefully chosen to suit each vignette. The pace never flagged either, scene changes being rapid and effective. And the set, props and lighting all supported the core elements of Chaos which are Myllyaho’s well-researched script and those charged with bringing it to life. A top class piece of entertainment that comes highly recommended.