Writer and performer: Carl James
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Carl James can’t stop washing his hands. Carl James can’t stop washing his hands. Carl James has OCD.
More performance than theatre, Sink, a short 30-minute show explores what it feels like to have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Utilising word, movement and even sign language, Carl James attempts to relay to the audience his need to control his life; in washing his hands James seeks to control all the events that he cannot control. By washing his hands until they are red he can slough off past traumas, past deaths.
In the centre of the stage there is a sink with shattered porcelain fragments and as he douses his hands there is a sense that without this sink he would sink into anxiety and depression. As James tells us early on, those who suffer from OCD are more likely to have suicidal urges. ‘I’m fine’ he tells the audience but we are not convinced he is fine at all. Mirroring the compulsions and rituals of someone who has OCD, James repeats movements and sentences as if caught in a cycle.
It’s not an easy watch especially when he inflicts violence on his body, and the laughter coming from outside the thin walls of the Theatre Box inadvertently taunted his struggle for control. The physical aspect of the piece is, in the main, successful but there is an awkward section where he wraps his arms around his back as if he is being hugged and kissed by another. However, what powers these parts is the exceptional music choices that become the soundscapes to his movements.
At one point James asks us if we are fine. We, too, don’t quite have the words to explain how we feel as our tears mirror his. This is a heart-breaking performance. It’s not just catharsis for James, but catharsis for the audience.
Reviewed 4 June 2017
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