Sarah Gough reviews A Little Bit OCD at the Bike Shed Theatre on January 24th as part of the From Devon with Love Festival.
A Little Bid OCD is Ben Callon’s professional writing debut and delineates various compulsions, both dangerous and innocuous of those suffering from OCD. Yet, instead of presenting utter insanity, Callon’s funny, engaging script sheds a new light on the seemingly taboo topic that is mental illness. Instead of the archetypal jittering wreck, Callon’s characters are developed, explained and normalised.
The piece opens with Jack and Sarah’s relationship. Sarah (Roisin Kelly) is suffering with a violent case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where she envisages stabbing or strangling everything in sight. To combat this she eats with a plastic picnic set whilst her boyfriend, Jack (Callon), assures her she is not going mad – as an audience however, we expect otherwise. Our suspicions are manifested in the introduction of Sarah’s brother, Michael (Christopher Hancock) and sister-in-law, Lucy (Stephanie Racine) who epitomise the prejudice and ignorance regarding OCD. These scenes and Racine’s characterisation in particular, as the loudmouth lactating mother, provide most of the play’s humour. Especially funny is the couple’s baby, played by a pack of Pampers nappies, which definitely hits the audience’s awkward ‘that’s not a real baby’ qualm head on.
As an interesting sub-plot, the audience sporadically act as therapist, listening to three anxiety ridden monologues. Hancock also played Craig, a young gay guy manically paranoid about his boyfriend’s fidelity. Whilst Angelina Woods was brilliantly convincing as both Heather, a bulimia sufferer and Laetitia, a Catholic girl who cannot keep blasphemous, sexual thoughts at bay.
The intimate, raw space of the Bike Shed Theatre really added to the play’s intensity. In the opening sequence and throughout, the actors moved the modest set of chairs and a beanbag, in the same style as we would associate with OCD sufferers – methodically and passionately. Devoid of wing space, the cast were omnipresent on stage, which, if anything, added to the paranoiac claustrophobia of the piece. Incredibly, the cast’s presence never proved distracting; perhaps further testimony to the talent of those in the foreground, as even during lengthy monologues attention was never diverted.
Whilst the ending optimistically presented Sarah as showing signs of recovery, I was expecting a more powerful and moving resolution. Yet, the discordance of the piece, together with its talented cast and entertaining writing, really did emphasise the variety and intricacy of mental illness.
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