What if you believed that counting was the only thing keeping your family safe? And what happens when you lose that control? Directed by Peter Taylor and produced by Some Riot Theatre, WEIRD tells the story of Yasmin, a young woman suffering the effects of obsessive compulsive disorder. WEIRD is a compelling and honest exploration of how undiagnosed mental health issues affect young people and send incisive ripples through family life.
Playwright Lucy Burke has drawn from her own experiences to create this beautifully structured, one-woman play. WEIRD explores personal specificities of OCD as well as drawing upon universal themes of inadequacy, emotional resilience, and the importance of female friendship. We are given intense, and often uncomfortable, glimpses into Yasmin’s mental disjuncture but alongside comical scenes at Bolton Tesco Express checkouts. Burke has offered us an insight into the life of a suffering young person through an intimate and darkly comic narrative. It is a powerful story, sharply written.
Amy Doyle, one of the two actresses sharing the role of Yasmin during the play’s run, delivers a convincing performance. Doyle consistently engages well with the space, taking ownership of the room. She frequently transitions between several characters to navigate this undisguised, conversational piece. Under Peter Taylor’s simple and effective direction, Doyle highlights the nuances of OCD revealing Yasmin’s deep-rooted and multi-faceted desire for control with effortless transitions in emotion and character.
Throughout the hour of the play’s duration we are exposed to the relentless voice which dictates Yasmin’s life. Sound design by Annie May Fletcher illustrating the intrusive thoughts of a sufferer is stylistically apt. Unfortunately though, overuse means the sound begins to lose its effectiveness. While there are great moments with this play’s direction, design and delivery, we yearn for subtlety and vulnerability against the deliberately fast-paced clutter. Here, the performance is lacking.
Nonetheless, and quite crucially, WEIRD is relevant. Burke doesn’t try to label or categorise mental illness, nor does she standardise experiences. She writes ‘I’d never seen a true reflection of OCD in the mainstream media and instead had been presented with stereotypical versions of the disorder that I couldn’t relate to and so I never imagined myself to have’. Yasmin’s OCD seeps into all aspects of her life; it goes far beyond keeping track of even numbers. Invited to sympathise with Yasmin, the audience is educated by this play.
WEIRD is working with national charity OCD Action, and certainly has its place at the Fringe Festival. It is delivered with heartbreak and humour in skilful balance, an emotionally exhausting experience in the most beneficial way possible.
Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker 2
1st – 27th Aug at 13.45 (not 14th)
Photo credit: Some Riot Theatre