A Room With No View - plays that probe mental illness

New drama yet again graces the Town Hall studio next week when A Room With No View receives its premiere. Comprising two one-act plays with an interweaving story line, A Room With No View highlights the misunderstood condition of mental illness in Irish society.

Both one-acts are set in the fictional Magdalene Institute, a mental hospital. Godhead, written by Adrian Lavelle, chronicles the life of 21-year-old Sascha Woven, a high security patient who suffers from severe manic depression and believes herself to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene. A Delicate Pysche, written by John O’Connor tells the story of Jay, a man in his mid-twenties who suffers from schizophrenia and is haunted by inner voices, which he has named Cane and Aémon. Each play is self-contained but are also inter-connected. Adrian Lavelle, who directs both plays, explains how the double-bill came about.

“John did the lights for my last play, Memento Morte, and he had an idea to put on a showcase of one-act plays,” he says. “Initially he was thinking of doing four or five but it ended up being whittled down to these two stories. I had written one called Godhead about a girl in a mental institute who believed she was Mary Magdalene and he had written one years ago about a schizophrenic man whose voices come to life.

“In my play there is a journalist, Miranda Gates, who comes to interview Sasha. John liked the character so he incorporated her into his play as well. She interviews these two patients in the same facility on the same night and that’s how the two stories connect.”

Godhead takes place in Sascha’s hospital room, which is covered in art work and a shrine to Mary Magdalene that includes a statue of ‘The Black Virgin’ and a slogan painted on the wall that reads ‘Dat Rosa Mel Apibus’ – (The rose gives the bees honey ). Revelations occur throughout about Sascha’s illness, such as how she calls her inner voice ‘Godhead’ and how she believes she is the second coming of Mary Magdalene.

In A Delicate Psyche we encounter Jay who believes his inner voices to be real people who dictate all his waking thoughts and deeds. He describes Aémon as the bad influence while Cane is mild-mannered, albeit that he nags Jay about his lifestyle. They speak to Jay but also bicker among themselves, like an inner Abbott and Costello that Jay will never be able to get rid of.

“The journalist Miranda delves into both Sascha and Jay’s lives to highlight the issue of mental illness,” Lavelle notes. “I did a lot of research before writing my play and before directing John’s. A lot of people who were mentally ill may have been ill for years without knowing it so a certain series of events can suddenly worsen their condition.

"Jay explains that when he was young he had imaginary friends and used to have blackouts as a child. When he was older the voices returned due to the stresses of college and he explains how they got steadily worse and how he tried to hide this from his girlfriend. Everything that happens in the play was fully researched; we didn’t want to mock mental illness and we try to make it as life-like as possible. Sascha in Godhead was inspired by a book I read about bipolar disorder by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.”

“The two plays have different themes and visual aspects. Godhead is a two-hander and the two women really go into relationships, family, and secrets. A Delicate Psyche has more visual aspects to it. In it, Jay sees his inner voices come to life. While the journalist is interviewing him the two voices are walking around having their own dialogue. She can’t see them but they’re constantly commenting and adding their own remarks.”

A DB & Wolf Meets World Production, A Room With No View features Fiona Walsh, Aisling Holian, Paul Dunning, Robert Siberry, and Eric Martyn. Artist Irene Berkery created the work that adorns Godhead.

A Room With No View runs at the Town Hall Studio from Tuesday November 11 to Saturday 15 at 8.30pm. Tickets are €10 from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie


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