Imagine your life without your mobile. What would you do in a time of crisis if you were in the middle of nowhere?
Maria Perez’s car breaks down in a pre-mobile era, she can’t see anyone nearby who could help. As she walks along the road, she sees a building and unknowingly enters a psychiatric hospital.
With our smart phones, we can now let anyone know what we’re doing and when. If she had a phone, Maria could have rung someone for help or even tweeted to let the world know that she broke down by the side of the road. I’d imagine it would be something like “Just broke down in the middle of nowhere #crapcar”.
Unfortunately, Maria had no option but to wonder innocently into what she thought would be a safe place to find assistance.
Community theatre group Our Space, make great use of the pop-up theatre at Plymouth’s TR2 to explore Maria’s psychological journey from sanity to insanity.
The nightmarish tale, directed by Lee Hart, begins from the instance the audience arrives. Standing at the back of the queue, there’s a woman with curly hair behind me asking to use the telephone and a group of nurses wandering around with clipboards. This completely threw me, I was unsure what was going on and feeling a bit uncomfortable as the woman behind, who I soon discovered was Maria, paced around, repeatedly asking to use a phone.
We’re then led into the auditorium by the nurses, who began telling members of the audience to take their medication and handing them pills. There were patients lying on the stage floor, making odd noises and looking like zombies.
Maria, played by the brilliant Clare Cox, continued to ask for the telephone, “I’ve only come to use the phone,” she said, “I’ve just got to call Tony, he’ll come get and me.”
The nurses, clearly amused by this behaviour, tell her, “Of course you did, they all did,” and admits her to the hospital. They methodically destroy Maria’s sanity using psychological, physical and emotional abuse.
The other patients on the ward also wear her down with their consistent tics, groans and compulsions adding to the claustrophobia and frustration she’s feeling.
Meanwhile, Maria’s untrusting husband Tony Perez, suspects that she’s run off with another man. Tony Kelly plays a very convincing angered and jealous husband, as he shouts, bawls and swears profusely down the phone in a strong Cockney accent, trying to find out where his Maria is.
Having no idea of her tragic situation, eventually a doctor gets in touch with Tony and explains the situation. Tony comes to see Maria and believes that she’s really gone, telling her that she needs help.
In one particular scene, Cox’s performance was outstanding, especially considering she had never acted professionally before. The scene involved an intimate moment with a hat stand in which Maria begins to realise that this is it, she’ll never leave the hospital, and was subsequently followed by her downward spiral into insanity.
Voices, a Theatre Royal Choir, act as ghostly onlookers behind a gauzy screen providing a cappella vocals and adding another dimension whilst sending chills down my spine as they sing Ave Maria.
For director Hart, his inspiration was the book, “I Only Came to Use the Phone” written by Spanish author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but this adaptation explores our own society’s fear of mental illness in a much deeper way.
I was fascinated by the themes of mistaken identity, isolation and neglect, and overall thoroughly enjoyed the play.
The Edge is a brilliant adaptation of Marquez’s original story, made better by the fact that the actors involved have never performed to a large audience before and know how it feels to be unheard, they can relate to the issues that the play presents and challenge the audience to explore their fears.
You can find out more about Our Space and other productions by visiting:
Our Space | Theatre Royal Plymouth