THE CHAT. As the audience enters the theatre space we are directed to our seats by the performers, a mix of ex-offenders and actors, who chat amongst us till the sound of a shredding machine signifies the start of the show. Les Wiggins has breached parole and a paper copy of his criminal history is shredded as he is to be given an opportunity to show who he truly is and gain his freedom.
In this devised work led by theatre maker and former parole officer, J R Brennan, with writer-performer David Woods, performer Ashley Dye and input from former prisoners, questions around the justice system are raised. Who and how are decisions made around which offenders should be given parole, what happens if it goes wrong, how does a newly released inmate survive and go on to live a productive life and what supports are needed, are some of the areas considered. Continue reading THE CHAT. QUESTIONING THE SYSTEM→
Question. Is it disrespectful to the artists not to want to search for deep meaning after seeing a show? I came away from GIVE ME YOUR LOVE with a desire to just sit with it awhile. Not to search, but simply to allow the impact to wash through under-consciousness. No intellectual rigour applied after the viewing, no empathetic after-engagement and definitely no mulling, considering or metaphor questing.
I mean, I get it. You have to know what your box is before you can get out of your box and my friend wanted to get stuck into that deep and meaningful at the after-party. Not me. It’s truth in advertising. GIVE ME YOUR LOVE did just that. It gave me love, warmth, insight, laughs and most surprisingly, a story. Like …gave it to me … whole.
There’s a man on stage, he’s partially in a moving box marked ‘Shoes’. He’s wounded, he’s in a box yet we can see the suffering. There are people outside the larger box into which Zach has put himself by virtue of a door chain. Those people want to help. Carol, his wife, offers to find a new way of seeing by getting her own box and his son, Ieuan, is trapped outside the larger box as his hand reaches through the slightly cracked door with a possible treatment.
Ridiculusmus (co-artistic directors and performers David Woods and Jon Haynes) is a multi-award winning UK theatre company. They are known for inventive ways of presenting complex ideas and this production tackles MDMA (Ecstasy )assisted therapy for PTSD. That’s how Ieuan hopes to help.
The show is part of THE BIG ANXIETY FESTIVAL which is an initiative of UNSW in association with the Black Dog Institute to question and re-imagine 21st century mental health. Woods and Haynes are investigating innovative approaches to mental health through three works. This production being the second after THE ERADICATION OF SCHIZOPHRENIA IN WESTERN LAPLAND.
Before holding up a hand to my friend’s de-briefing we had a bit of an argument. I think the actor (Woods) inside the box is a puppetmaster, to my friend he is a suit-operator. He stomps like a Teletubbie when disconcerted but he holds hands up to box face when alarmed. Overthinking it now. It’s remarkable whole body acting in any event, yet Hayes’ Ieuan is the pure wonderey of voice and mime.
Best to take the strobe/ loud noise warnings seriously in this production, I had actual double vision and ringing ears after one of the alienation sequences yet I was absolutely undeterred from the narrative. It’s compelling and complex storytelling with silence and stillness in places, quick fire comic responses in others, hilarious breaking of the fourth wall and huge warlike hits of pathos and sadness.
Like all therapeutic experiences though, there can sometimes be something that gives you pause. I struggled when the reason for Zach’s PTSD was revealed. It probably wasn’t the truth, there had been a few versions but it was said and it was without examination. And it made me uncomfortable because it felt disrespectful. So it is my hope that the emotional, visceral content of GIVE ME YOUR LOVE will weave a kind of enlightenment as it sits undisturbed within me. If not, I will poke it with a stick and see if my own restrictive cardboard walls implode.