Monday, 18 February 2013

Takin’ Over The Asylum

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

ends

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