Writers: David Woods and Jon Haynes
Directors: David Woods and Jon Haynes
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Dr. Ben Sessa and his team in Bristol might be about to make a major breakthrough in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And they need to. With a rising number of cases emerging, especially among military personnel who have fought in recent conflicts, it’s a serious issue that needs some serious solutions. So Sessa’s MDMA assisted therapy might sound a bit out there given the substance’s popularity with ravers, but, it seems, the therapy works in pretty much the same way it does on a wild Saturday night – by opening up some space for self-expression.
Theatre-makers David Woods and Jon Haynes met Dr Sessa while working on a previous show and his research struck them as something they could explore creatively. The result is the rather brilliant Give Me Your Love, which comes to the Lowry as part of the Sick! Festival, three weeks of performance that explores and celebrates life, death and survival.
Zach is in a box. And he doesn’t have any intention of coming out. When his mate Ieuan tells him he’s heard about a medical trial to treat PTSD with MDMA – and that he knows a bloke who can get some – they decide to conduct their own drug-enhanced therapy session. With Ieuan wedged half out / half in the room, impeded by the door chain and Zach’s paranoid reluctance to let him in, Give Me Your Love plays out an hour of tense psychological drama.
But it’s a strangely uplifting work of black comedy too. Drawing on the absurdity of the situation – whether you read it as real or allegory – and there are plenty of ways to interpret this quirky piece – Ridiculusmus bring a great deal of positivity. Here is a desperate, suicidal man, trapped with his trauma, but he’s surviving, and there’s a chance that every day things might get a little bit better. This positivity certainly comes out of Sessa’s research. In an after show discussion he goes so far as to talk about MDMA therapy being a possible ‘cure’ for PTSD – and one that would negate the need for the vast amount of SSRIs (the most commonly prescribed antidepressants) that people with depression rely on, sometimes for decades. As Sessa points out, pharma’s not keen on MDMA.
David Woods and Jon Haynes (Ridiculusmus) have created an important piece of theatre. It has all the simplicity of a piece devised, written and performed by two curious individuals who want their work to both educate and entertain. They take on tough ideas, avoid any hint of worthy, and make work that sharply and directly gets to the very heart of its subject. Their performances are amazing given that they have no way of interacting with each other or with the audience. This powerful separation is broken at one point when Woods, still with the huge box covering his head and half his body, suddenly leaves the confines of the space and sits on the front row between slightly startled audience members. It’s a strange decision to disrupt the by then established atmosphere of disconnection and weakens the dramatic impact.
Give Me Your Love is played on a simple, hugely effective set. A filthy, bare room. A door with multiple locks, no windows. It’s reflects everything from the inside of a depressed mind to the squalor that seems totally acceptable to the emotionally inactive. Inside a box, the world outside ceases to matter.
Give Me Your Love is touring the UK throughout March and May, and it’s well worth an hour of anyone’s time.
Runs until 12 March 2017 | Image: Contributed