The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland explores the proposition that madness often looks a lot more like ordinary life than our preconceived notions may allow and thus requires a different approach for its treatment.
The work is dear to all involved and its creation comes with a serious pedigree of collaborators: Associate Professors Suresh Sundram and Neil Cole at the Brain Centre (Melbourne); and Doctor Ben Sessa, Doctor Charlotte Burck and Doctor Graham Music whose expertise covers systemic therapy, neurological investigation, genetics and drug-based interventions.
After a successful British tour the UK company Ridiculusmus will be brining the work to our shores later this month. The company is led by David Woods and Jon Haynes who write, direct and perform and have been producing 'seriously funny theatre' for over 20 years..
The origins of Ridiculusmus are described as being in the shadowlands of theatre and comedy. They began as a self described rabble of graduates from the Poor School in London, adapting comic novels for the London fringe. They have evolved into a flagship UK performance group touring nationally and internationally, creating and performing works important and meaningful delivered with the same original aim which is to be both serious and funny.
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is the first of a trilogy of work to be developed over the next five years focusing on mental health. Co-Artistic director Woods had cared for his father and brother through different mental health crises and when he and Haynes started working on what was to be a family drama memories of these experiences started to influence the work. "We had been drawn initially to a family drama as we wanted to challenge ourselves to make a play where characters had deep connections, says Woods. "Our more recent works had been populated by strangers who met in public places."
The staging of the play is innovative and ambitious in that it involves split staging wherein the action and dialogue from two different sequences of scenes are simultaneously performed to two different groups of audience in the same space. "The hardest thing with the staging choice is finding venues that are able to present it, explains Woods. "It demands incredible focus on the part of the performers and a willingness on the part of the audience to engage with the topic in an immersive way."
Described as a fantastical, ingenious exploration of psychosis, the creators were inspired by the Finnish Open Dialogue treatment method which is based on the idea that psychosis happens “between people” and not “within” and focuses not on “curing” individuals but on the network of relationships surrounding them. Woods feels progressive work is being done in Australia ( citing Irish born psychiatrist Pat McGorry as an example. McGorry is Professor of Youth mental Health at Melbourne Uni and is Executive Director, Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health) but is less well resourced than in Finnish Western Lapland and needs more funding and support. Woods also feels the key to mental health is a healthy society.
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is a unique, worthwhile and thought provoking piece that blurs the mad and the sane in an unsettling theatre experience. The play presents the first psychotic episodes of a mother and son; with fantastical results involving Finnish Folk, roast vegetables, Adolf Hitler and a knitted toilet roll cover. The message is clear says Woods: "That psychosis is a sane response to an insane world and is not very different to what is supposed to be “normality”, that psychotic meaning making is meaning making and that recovery is difficult but possible."
Society can work towards a better understanding about mental illness and what treatment actually looks like, feels Woods, who says it should be treated as readily as a physical injury or condition is. The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland will challenge your perception about mental illness in Ridiculusmus' trademark oxymoronic fashion.
November 12 – 16