Some notes on The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland by Ridiculusmus. Which I've seen twice, and continue to find difficult to describe - and that's a great thing. These notes were written freeform and fast, about a year after I first saw the show. They haven't been edited.They're a bit clumsy.
This is a show that changes every time it is performed, and for which the playscript is not clarifying as the order of things is sometimes simultaneous, sometimes chronological. This is a show in which the audience is seated in two groups facing each other, except that they can’t see each other because there is a theatrical set between them. This is a show that uses repetition in an unusual way, by performing two different interlocking scenes involving the same actors on either side of the theatrical set, playing to half of the audience on one side and half on the other side and making ‘entrances’ and ‘exits’ via a door in the set that leads to the other half of the audience, and then reversing which act is performed on each side. This is a play that is influenced by a method of therapy called ‘Open Dialogue’ which is being used very successfully to treat schizophrenia and psychosis in Western Lapland. This is a play that challenges what we might understand as ‘narrative’. Underneath all of that, this is a play about holding space and time together, and recognising that we are all responsible for the relationships we have with each other, and sometimes those relationships fail, but that does not mean that we are failures. This is a show that is funny, and trying to be funny. This is a show that is funny, as in ‘weird’. Because it is funny, as in weird, this show does not allow language to become hierarchical, just weird. Language travels across the space between us, all of us, and we catch what we can. Sometimes several people are talking or making noise at once. They are having conversations that might just be related but that will only become related if we do the work of relating them in our heads. This is a show about the attempt of language, and the violence of uttering one word. This is a show where the actors listen very carefully to each other, and we listen very carefully to them, and we also sometimes give up, let go, of making sense of the narratives that they are speaking. This is a show where everyone in the room is trying to make sense of something. And that is all that is happening. But we are doing it in the same room.
Nothing gets resolved, nothing gets actioned, no-one gets saved. We can’t take it away with us, and neither can we pack it away after the applause. It continues as we leave the theatre, which is not to say that it intends to continue after we leave the theatre, but because nothing has been resolved, our lives as we leave that space are already related to the violent attempts at language we have witnessed. ‘The story’ doesn’t follow us home. ‘The characters’ don’t live on inside our heads. But just as we were in that room trying to make sense of language with a bunch of other people, so we continue to be in another room or on the street in the same event. It is all the same event, but within that one frame we gathered and we paid attention to it.