DTR - Reviews of the psychosocial gathering

the psychosocial gathering

Fri 1st – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

David Harris

at 21:06 on 5th Aug 2014

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The Psychosocial Gathering is a representation of the inner workings of the mind. Thankfully, it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Dan, played by Tom Mason, has a mental block and wakes up inside his mind, surrounded by personifications of different elements of his psyche. There are the obvious Freudian elements, such as the Id (Jake Philips-Head), Ego (Milly Rolle), and Super-Ego (Sam King); then there are characters representing his Libido (Susannah Martin), conscience (Jules Chant-Tuft and Jack Sears), and memory or Mnemosyne (Greta Mitchell). Rounding off the cast are Lucas Burt as Wisdom, Matt Preece as Narrator, and Ciara Morris as Dan’s girlfriend Amy.

The characters are not complex, but that, of course, is the point; they are a single aspect of the overall character of Dan. Their simplicity sets up hilarious conflicts between them; Ego and Super-Ego desperately try to keep the others in check, but often fail spectacularly. Meanwhile Wisdom and Narrator, whilst not contributing much to the plot, provide amusingly pointless interjections throughout, delivered in brilliantly straight-faced style, and the romance between Id and Libido is superbly performed.

Delving into Dan’s memory to find the source of his mental block, we see scenes play out between him and Amy, and the transitions between these and Dan’s psyche are seamless. The chemistry between the pair is good, but not outstanding; however, they portray a range of different scenarios effectively, and all scenes move along at a very fast pace.

The costumes, designed by Morris, are interesting and compelling, creating bright and recognisable characters, and also dividing them into pairs – Ego and Super-Ego, for example, are both clad in purple, with Libido and Id in green. Dan and Amy are in black and white, perhaps representing the combination of all the different elements.

Unfortunately, the ending to the story is unsatisfactory; it leaves open loose ends whilst also feeling a little bit deus ex machina – a little bit of an easy escape from the conflict. But this does not detract from the humour and intrigue with which the rest of the play is dealt. There is not a wealth of interesting comments on psychology, relationships, or anything much at all. But there is a good deal of silliness, comic timing, and brilliant characterisation that make The Psychosocial Gathering a very enjoyable watch.

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Ellie Taylor

at 09:31 on 6th Aug 2014

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Brought to us by Martha Geelan, this play simply ticks every box. Clever, witty and engaging, The Psychosocial Gathering is a play conducted entirely inside the mind. Dan, played by Tom mason, is surprised to find that he has a host of personified aspects of his psycho inside of his head. Although he is not entirely pleased about this, the audience certainly are.

This concept is one that could easily be pretentious if taken too seriously, but Geelan’s approach is refreshingly tongue- in - cheek. A flock of brightly-coloured, energetic and bizarre characters make up Dan’s consciousness, each character bringing something distinctive and hilarious to the mix.

Among all the insanity that makes up this performance, you may expect that it would be difficult for the more ‘normal’ characters, Dan and Amy,(Ciara Morris and Tom Mason), to make much of an impression. Nothing, happily, could be further from the truth: the actor’s performances, although of a different kind to the rest, are just as engaging.

As the targets of intrigue within the play, the flashbacks of the couple’s relationship leave the audience confused and intrigued about what has caused Dan’s mental block. Morris masters the domain of real life relationships, giving a thoroughly convincing performance. Mason rises to the challenge of acting with a foot in both worlds; his bewilderment at finding himself in his own head leaves no trace when he reverts to his memory-self.

Speaking of the flashbacks, they are dealt with artfully. The arrangements of these scenes are expert and visually stunning – with the psyche frozen in a colourful array wherever they are standing. Mason has to quickly switch between his psyche-self and his ‘normal’ self, and his movements conveying this transition are proficiently done.

Stand-out performances come from Greta Mitchell and Milly Rolle, playing Mnemosyne and Ego. Mitchell is mesmerizing to watch, imperiously commanding the attention of all around her - especially that of the audience. Rolle was one of the most comic characters of the play, toeing the line perfectly between the completely ridiculous and the moderation that her namesake requires.

Although the majority of the performance was exceptional, I found the ending somewhat underwhelming. It provoked some interesting thoughts, and provided Mason with the chance to do some serious acting - which he performed touchingly and provoked the sympathy of the audience. I also cannot actually suggest a better way to wrap up the show, and loved the rest of it so much that the end didn't hugely impact my overall impression. Despite this small niggle, the flawlessness of the rest of the play most definitely makes up for it, and then some.

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