Serotonin Syndrome

Tue 6th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Patty McCabe

at 23:32 on 9th Aug 2013

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“I think I’m going to need a glass of wine to write this review” was the first thought that came into my head after viewing the performance of ‘Serotonin Syndrome’. Not much has changed since – not even the glass of wine has materialised. The production had so many layers, ranging from the harrowing to the hilarious to the down right bizarre, that I have absolutely no idea where to begin.

It is a two women show, and it is about being a woman in society today – this much is clear. Mycah Leigh Artis and Genevieve Tarrico open the show by explaining to the audience that tonight they will be playing themselves. Together, by utilising a wide and impressive array of methods, they take us through the travails of modern day womanhood: from finding love to fertility, from eating disorders to, and perhaps most originally, the relationship between siblings.

It is not so much the content that makes this production so bemusing, indeed the issues of modern womanhood are a very well-travelled terrain. It is the sheer diversity of methods used to convey this idea. Some methods were more successful than others: the lingering stares and the orgasmic climax set to ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ stepped over the line from delightfully bizarre to an endurance test in cutting edge theatre.

Some of the more original aspects included a scene in a doctors surgery where Genevieve is diagnosed with ‘being a girl’, and a dance to Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I fell like a women’, preceded by a rubbing of Vaseline on the teeth. The most impressive part of the show was the scene where the audience had to pick a caricature out the hat and either Genevieve or Mycah had to read a statement on parenthood out as that caricature. This was fantastically original and really exhibited the enormous talent of both Artis and Tarrico.

The major failing point of the piece was that it actually failed to say anything particularly new about ‘being a women’. Granted, the methods were original and for the most part thoroughly entertaining, but why do most plays about women have to littered with same old clichés regarding love, parenthood and body image? Perhaps I’m missing the point, or perhaps this is the point, but I am failing to understand why a piece so original in composition and a pair as talented as Artis and Tarrico fell back on such a formulaic choice of subjects. I am a ‘modern day women’ (whatever this means), and as a modern day women I say ‘Please! Spare me the clichés!’

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Jazz Adamson

at 03:35 on 10th Aug 2013

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Blowing up their balloons you could see the bafflement on the faces of the audience: why were they being told to blow up a balloon and throw it on set? Who were the two women with painted lips and flowery print dresses, lit from behind with soft pink lighting? This bafflement did not fade. The production was certainly thought-provoking, but the main thought it provoked was ‘Why?’. At points it was lucid and truly powerful, but it would descend all too quickly into over-sincerity: pauses that lasted too long and were supposed to be imbued with a meaning that wasn’t there. Yet this is not an average production, since both actors (Genevieve Taricco and Mycah Leigh Artis) were hugely talented performers who used their bodies and voices in fresh, novel ways.

‘Serotonin Syndrome’ begins with the chirpy, bubbly sound of up-beat electro pop and both Genevieve and Mycah dancing as though that were the only thing in the world that could make them happy. Their movements were fascinating to watch, tightly controlled yet with the aura of abandon – like a ballerina on MDMA. Somehow they careered through the balloons that littered the stage (why?) without falling, and each proceeded to perform certain characters (‘virginal ingenue’, ‘suicidal belle’, ‘jersey girl’) as picked by an audience member from a hat. The idea of this was to point out that, this time, the actors were going to play themselves.

Other such physical stunts were also impressive, notably the duet where Genevieve sang about how fun it was to wear dresses and be taken on dates and Mycah sang her frustration at wanting to be free and wear what she liked. It seemed there was a feminist point desperately trying to get out: in one scene, a G.P.’s diagnosis after hearing the woes of the patient’s love life is (sarcastically), “Congratulations! You’re a girl!” Nothing is made of the fact that she is given truth serum before she can be ‘diagnosed’, as if they were implying that being a girl was difficult to admit to – this could be an interesting point to explore. Yet the comment on the experience of ‘womanhood’ was never expanded or clarified and remained hidden among the balloons.

Just as these moments of real social commentary would peek out and show promise, the writing could be moving and resonant, such as the simile for one woman’s sadness: to others, her sadness seems like a river in a foreign land, in which they take their trousers off and bathe, then emerge and dry off in the sun while she must remain wet. However, any subtler meaning was unfathomable. The production would benefit from a direction and a clarification of its aim or point. Nonetheless, this was a special show: original and honestly intriguing as a piece of theatre.

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