Camden Fringe 2017: Unprescribed at the Monkey House
A dynamic all-female cast lead this bizarre yet effortlessly funny production from the talented practitioners behind the Sun Apparatus Theatre Company. Portraying quirky yet bewildered characters battling with the pressures of modern life, this strange theatrical hybrid of physical sequences, thudding dialogue and musical interlude is not to be missed, as it continues its run at this year’s Camden Fringe.
Set in “The Centre,” an institution specialising in experimental techniques that analyse and treat conditions of stress, compulsion and even fear, we are given an enjoyable 60-minute “presentation” of its methods. Tearing down the fourth wall, the Centre’s doctor introduces us to two patients, each suffering from unique conditions: from an overwhelming desire to “chop” vegetables, to a paranoia surrounding the atmosphere’s ability to aid photosynthesis in trees. What follows is a witty and expertly delivered sequence of “treatments”, demonstrated to the audience with boastful pride at offering a solution to modern-day “illness”. We see everything from carrot-based dance therapy, sporadic group song, wistful water treatments, and the traumatising yet hilarious taunting that comes with dozens of tomatoes being rolled onto the stage to test patients’ urges and desires.
As each treatment unravels and eventually fails, what translates is an absurd yet poignant commentary on the way society today, pushing patronising treatment methods and assuming ignorant stigmas, is unequipped and unpractised in dealing with mental health. Unpicking dormant power structures that exist in our society, we discover that each character, including the doctor, has their own compulsions and inner demons to battle. It is through clever humour and physical play that we as an audience are left to question the morality of these methods, and the extent to which they are necessary for such “cases”.
The Sun Apparatus’ talented cast are all equally forceful and convincing in their fast-paced comic delivery of this theme, despite the odd jumbled phrasing and fumbled line. Likewise, the Monkey House space, with its minimalist setting, gives prominence to the energetic performances and vast range of props that eventually litter the stage. It’s also fitting, perhaps, that this venue asks all guests to take off their shoes when seeing a show here, in another modern-day gimmick that we’re told will “centre” and “ground” our inner selves.
Unprescribed is at The Monkey House from 2nd until 5th August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Unprescribed here: