The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland presents a choice upon entering the Corpus Playroom. Home or hospital? The two audiences are divided by a diagonal partition across the space. On one side, a domestic scene that steadily rises to a – quite literal – breaking point. On the other, the cold rationalism of a clinic, interspersed with moments of faltering humanity. The two scenes are played simultaneously and the audience on one side can hear and see glimpses of the other side. No need to choose too wisely, though; the final act sees the partition rotated and the missing pieces of the story slotted into place.
Watching two scenes running parallel to one another initially felt a little jarring. The family scene was slightly disjointed by the interjections from the other side, meaning that the more subtle interactions between actors were lost. But this narrative juggling soon became much slicker, and the ingenuity of the staging really shone through in the moments of interaction between the two sides that mimicked the auditory hallucinations of a person with schizophrenia.
Acting schizophrenia can be tough. It’s very easy, at best, to tumble into a cliché; at worst, to play for laughs. Yet whilst there were occasional titters from the audience, mostly at the more extravagant delusions and hallucinations of Richard, Gus Mitchell‘s representation of a bored, frustrated, arrogant young man meant that the character felt much more than just Schizophrenic #1.
Similarly, Dolly Carbonari brought to her role a nervousness that seemed to stem not only from the character’s diagnosis but from the insecurities of a homemaker under immense pressure. Meanwhile, the play danced around major psychiatric debates – genetics or family environment, drugs or psychotherapy – always maintaining a focus on the individuals affected. Yet some of the ambiguities created by the structure meant that the ending was left unclear.
Leaving Corpus, I heard confused audience members discussing the clarity of a key plot point . After a mercifully tentative portrayal of psychosis, it seemed quite disappointing that the play lapsed into the raving-lunatic stereotype, even if this conclusion wasn’t intentional, and may have been script-based issue rather than a directorial one.
Overall, a creative and absorbing play that tackles the issues it presents with some trepidation. Despite moments of clumsiness, the innovative staging and impressive performances offered an original take on a well-trodden subject.