The Wonderful World of Dissocia

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre of Scotland
Anthony Neilson (writer), Miriam Beuther (designer), Chahine Yavroyan (lighting designer), Nick Powell (sound designer)
James Cunningham, Christine Entwhistle, Alan Francis, Amanda Hadingue, James Jack, Claire Little, Mathew Pidgeon, Barnaby Power

'Be careful what you wish for' implies our fantasies are dangerous, perhaps not only to ourselves but also to others. Whatever may lurk in our heads is safest left there; what we may fantasise about or who we may dream of doing anything with ought, if we are any way 'sane', to be kept to ourselves.

The song may ask who, 'in the dungeon of your mind, you've got chained against the wall', but if we have any sense, the thought police aren't going to get any sort of admission out of us. Which is the way society prefers it - no out and comfy confession allows the myth of a general public with good mental health to prevail and makes it easier to concentrate on the 'unsound' of mind.

As Adam Phillips points out 'soundness' of mind once referred to people's political opinions - until 'unsound' became a way of suggesting your political opponent was 'wrong-headed' in a lunatic as well as a political sense. Points to ponder in the context of Anthony Nielson's 'The Wonderful World of Dissocia'. Neilson's play illuminates both the light and dark which is our inner life and subtly indicates how seductive may be the urge to allow our deepest fears and darkest wishes off the leash.

Lisa Montgomery Jones (Christine Entwhistle) descends via a lift to Dissocia, hoping to find the hour she lost traveling back from New York. From the glorious Insecurity Guards to a very vengeful Scapegoat, the characters she encounters suggest creations imagined by a Lewis Carroll who has taken some very strange substances indeed; a notion Neilson himself encourages by his own comments on the play. Apart from the fact Dissocia appear to be at war with itself, it's at times a fun place to be, and the cast seem to fully enjoy and delightedly exploit the iconoclastic chaos which Neilson so skillfully orchestrates throughout the play's roller-coaster opening act.  

For 'The Wonderful World of Dissocia' is very much a play of two halves, the first act suggesting the world Lisa inhabits unmedicated, the second showing how her condition - which it is implied is a form of bi-polar (manic depressive) disorder - affects her and those around her. Dissocia is world of colour and light, contrasting sharply with the hospital setting of the second act.

In Dissocia, Lisa was the subject of her own life, whereas in hospital she is the object of other people's well-meaning intentions. Despite a shard of hope, cautiously offered by her long-suffering partner, neither he nor we are left in any doubt as to the continuing attraction Lisa feels inhabits her 'other' world.

Neilson's script gets perhaps as close as it can to the debatable land between 'sane' and 'perverse' behaviours, the silences between those who can accept the banality of our common 'reality' and those of us who feel obliged to alter our own scripts.

March to different drums and take roads (perhaps wisely) less traveled. In less sure hands, such an ambitious undertaking might have buckled under the strain, but Neilson ensures his cast and company have quite clear maps of the territory, and their energy and conviction carry us with them.

This is a very tight and effective production of a fine acting script, and a bold but very worthwhile undertaking for the national Theatre of Scotland at this point in its development. Catch it while you still can.

Runs to 9th June 2007