DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Viva Voce – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Lauren-Shannon Jones

Director: Luke Casserly

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster 

Viva Voce takes place in two main sections, and while the piece was pulled off with a high level of emotional intensity, this opposition between the two styles was jarring and meant that neither one was fulfilled in a satisfying manner.

The first part was a presentation, complete with an old-fashioned slide show, by Lauren-Shannon Jones on madness (a word she carefully, and insistently, used), especially as it was regarded in women in 19thcentury France. This portion of the evening is more akin to a TED Talk, and Jones is at once nervy and charming, guiding the audience through a number of gruesome stories that highlight how madness was fetishized at that time. She acts out many of the symptoms she describes, such as transference, and the discussion goes to interesting places, like the link between technology and madness, but eventually, it descends to mirror the mental state of someone suffering from depression or a nervous breakdown.

The lights go down, Jones removes nearly all of her clothes, and for most of the second half of the evening, there is no-one on stage, only a cloud that lights up a certain colour, depending on who’s talking. These conversations take place between Jones and a host of men, from her doctor through to her partner and father. Each one is unable to deal with the illness Jones’ voice describes, and the anxiety and isolation of suffering from mental health problems comes across powerfully in these exchanges.

However, this is also where the work begins to become frayed. This reviewer was left with the feeling that either a TED Talk or a more rounded descent into madness, potentially with a constructive critique (not that a night at the theatre has to leave one feeling hopeful, but critique of this kind should leave an option for improvement), would have worked better, as opposed to what came across as two ideas unnaturally stuck together.

There was much to like in both of these sections, and it is a welcome contribution to a necessary debate, but the execution was not carried out as well as the initial ideas were crafted.

Runs until 22nd September 2018 | Image: Contributed

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