Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This is an interesting attempt to deal with the issue of paranoid schizophrenia which is generally well handled but still feels like it lacks enough depth to have considered the issue properly. It uses the vehicle of a fantasy writer who can see the mediaeval world of his creation whilst trying to come to terms with the real world in which his therapist and sister try to find ways of helping.
The play is fairly well structured with the interweaving of the fantasy world the writer has created with the real world where he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He stays with his sister who has just returned from missionary work in Rwanda. A fascinating premise there are times when it works well and gives us a glimpse of what could be possible with some extra time given for development.
The performances from the cast are highly competent as they seem to be up[ against a play which has not god enough depth to stretch their abilities. The staging was simple as it needs to be, though the dragon at the end is highly impressive. Unfortunately on the day I saw it there was a power cut which brought down the lights but the actors, in true Fringe spirit – carried on regardless! This will not necessarily be a play that will see people rushing to request a second run but had sufficient inventiveness as a premise that should see some form of return to rewrite and improve. The piece was successful in its drive to charm but was short of alarming and didn’t truly disarm.
The audience were entertained but there were more than a few gaps which left me wondering if I was at a preview for a longer play. At one point when the writer begins to hallucinate the therapist leaves – I thought this would have been the one point she would have wanted to witness his behaviour. Then in one hallucination the Knight is onstage with the witch he apparently killed but seems oblivious to that. I also found the sudden conversion of the brother to understanding the faith of his sister a stretch. The letters he found were not as alarming to me as they were to the brother/writer.
I was entertained on one level and then disappointed on another. The premise was intriguing and I was hoping for some in depth analysis but in 50 minutes there was not enough time for the characterisation to really convince. I also found Rwanda to be a bit dated. It was well acted and some of the interplay at pace was of a very high standard. The actors in one sense deserved better. The stars are for them though if you go it won’t leave you disappointed at their efforts but may not be overly illuminating in terms of mental illness and missionary work in Rwanda.