Writer/Performer: Sam Ross
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
This is the most honest performance you will see at the Fringe this year. Sam is a student at Sheffield University. He lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At times it can be completely disruptive, making it impossible for him to live a normal life. At other times it can be manageable, but while he can try and control it, there is never a time when he feels it is completely under control. Sam is Sam Ross, the writer and performer of this. This is his life and condition laid bare for an audience.
The play opens inside a nightmare, Sam’s rapid speech becoming impossible to follow as he explores some minor mathematical calculation that appears to be taking over his life. Noise levels rise and lights flash on and off so rapidly that you feel the play should come with a warning about them. This is how bad the condition can get. It’s a powerful opening that takes you in to one aspect of Sam’s world.
After this, Sam changes the tone. There is an explanation of who he is and his condition. It works almost as an apology for the way he started the show, which in itself appears to illustrate another aspect of OCD. A series of objects, including pens, photos and drawings are discussed and arranged at specific places around the stage, before someone else has to pick them up. All the time he is doing this, Sam is talking, telling the audience why he needs to do it.
He gives the audience first hand knowledge of the condition and what living with it is like, but he also shows that people suffering from it can be aware of the seeming irrationality of their actions and can make fun of their condition and themselves, as he does with an excellent song delivered to each section of the audience as if to make sure no-one feels ignored.
The humour and the explanations introduce you to Sam when his OCD is in check. They make the sections where the OCD is uncontrollable all the more powerful and shocking, illustrating how it changes him and how debilitative it can be.
It feels like the hour-long show could be a little shorter, with some of the end feeling like it is repeating earlier material and taking away from the originality of the constant changes in the way he presents the condition. But this is powerful theatre, raw, honest and brave in equal measure, and well worth seeing.
Runs until 27 August 2018 | Image: Giulia Delprato