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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

20.17 Blog #19: The Wonderful World of Dissocia

I went to see the National Theatre of Scotland’s tour of The Wonderful World of Dissocia at York Theatre Royal in 2007.  I remember for three clear-as-day reasons:  1. It was the year I went to University, and the period of a handful of years I saw numerous plays that would inform how I looked at, and loved, theatre.  2.  I have the ticket in the play script I bought (signed by Antony Neilson, the author) and 3. I was 18 and we got drunk.

You see, we’d all gone to see the play as a Youth Theatre trip.  We were all the top-tier of the group, some of us had gone off to University, YT was a great place to catch up, do something silly in-between doing silly things at BBQs and festivals and parties.  For some reason, YTR had a drinks offer which, if memory serves (though unlikely it does) pints were £1.  We loved the show, so we went back and saw it again for one of the gang’s birthday.  With £1 pints.  But we left at the intervanl.  I’ll explain.

The Wonderful World of Dissocia is a parody of Alice In Wonderland, with a spot of Wizard of Oz thrown in.  The kind of thing that people like Neil Gaiman riff on all the time.  Lisa goes into a magical world to try and retrieve her lost hour, and in the process meets all manner of strange characters whose existence plays-on-words.  The Oathtaker becomes the Oat-Cake-Eater, The Scapegoat, whose job is to take the blame, the residents of the Lost Lost Property who have lost their sense of humour, temper and inhibitions.  The story revolves around the evil Black Dog trying to destroy/rule Dissocia, and the resolution being Lisa turns out to be the source of life in Dissocia.  However, Neilson’s Dissocia is a twisted Wonderland, the text peppered with swearing, a slab of nudity as well as a sexual assault.  It has a childish quality, like a naughty child was re-writing Peter Pan by replacing the word ‘Pirate’ with the word ‘Knob’ and the show was genuinely hilarious, as well as unsettlingly dark in places.  So we went to see if twice, because we laughed so much.

But the second half is hard to watch.  Roughly 20 minutes, it sees the entire world transformed into a Hospital ward, and numerous Nurses and Doctors come and treat Lisa.  But the energy is flat.  The scene bitingly realistic, tender and the complete opposite of the nutty 1st half.  It’s because the world of Dissocia is inside Lisa’ head, roughly reflective of a hallucinogenic adventure in the countryside, seeing a goat, an airport, a hot dog van but filtering it into a manic world.  The Black Dog King is both the black dog of depression, and her boyfriend, Vince, who makes her feel guilty of her lapses into another world in her head.

The show stayed with me, because of the context of seeing the show with good mates and the laughs.  But also because the play is brave enough to bore the audience in the second half, a comment on mental health services.  Two extremes, two different experiences, two worlds all within one stage.  In the Foreword to the text, Neilson talks about “the greatest oppositional forces facing normal people come from within…”

Finally, Neilson says “We must be magical or suffer the consequences”.  He wants spectacle, and the ability to make an audience laugh is a powerful, and addictive, tool.  I guess that’s stayed with me, not only I want my events and work to be the good night out full of entertaining fun energy, but also that within there are opposites:  seriousness, politics, drama, tension, silence and commentary.

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