Citizens Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars “Inspired is when you think you can do anything,” says one character in Donna Franceschild’s psychiatric ward-set play adapted from her 1994 TV drama. “Manic is when you know it.” Such a bold statement becomes a kind of manifesto for this moving, funny and heart-breakingly pertinent story about how a hospital radio station awakens its damaged residents from their TV-watching torpor.
When window salesman and would-be DJ Eddie arrives at St Jude’s, his radio show is initially met with indifference by all except hyper-active Campbell. Eventually, the redemptive force of soul music gives a sense of purpose to Francine, Rosalie, Fergus and all the others who don’t quite fit in with the big bad world outside. Eddie too has his demons, as becomes painfully apparent when the station and the community that’s built around it is threatened with closure.
There’s a sense of empathy as well as anger in Franceschild’s writing that’s brought to devastating life by an exceptional ensemble cast in Mark Thomson’s heart-rending co-production between the Citz and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. A magnificent Iain Robertson makes a hangdog Eddie, while Brian Vernel is equally electric as Campbell.
Coming at a time when hard fought for public health services are being ripped asunder by a faceless managerial culture imposed by a heartless and ideology-driven government, Franceschild’s play suddenly looks more vital than ever. While it avoids polemic, when Eddie rises up from his knees screaming an impassioned “Do they not realise what they’ve done?”, it’s as powerful a protest as something out of John Steinbeck in a passionately human call to arms that must be listened to.
The Herald, January 18th 2013