A dirty, disused room, empty except for a box with lots of holes in it. What we don’t know is that Zach, an army veteran played by David Woods, is hiding inside the box and refuses to come out of it. Friends and family bang on the door, at their wits end trying to get him to come out and what ensues is a darkly comic yet tragic portrayal of a broken man, desperate for love and help but who’s ultimately met with fear.
Ingeniously tackles society’s stigma of mental health with humour and plenty of tenderness.
Zach has heard of a radical but controversial new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder: MDMA. His wife, understandably, is sceptical and reels off all the typical arguments against any form of drug use while his friend tries to help him but ultimately ends up being just as hopeless as Zach’s wife. Jon Haynes plays both Carol (Zach’s wife) and Ieuan (his friend) and we never actually see them onstage, only as voices from behind the door which leads to a slightly surreal theatrical world as time becomes fluid in between dialogues while we, along with Zach, experience it as one continuous event. It has the subtle effect of mirroring insomnia and the subsequent distortion of reality that occurs post-trauma and puts us in the same headspace as Zach. Woods’ performance is incredible – he never leaves the box yet manages to convey a huge range of emotions with his body as he moves around the stage, backs into corners and shrinks into himself to hide from the world.
This is also a quietly political show that really feels like a snapshot of austerity-hit, Brexit-voting Wales, from Carol’s distrust and contempt towards Cardiff (where the drug trials take place) to the shameful lack of mental health facilities. It also makes us reconsider how we think of veterans and how ‘heroes’ are never allowed to be weak or vulnerable to the extent that Zach wishes he could’ve ‘died a hero’ rather than to suffer this level of degradation. The answer seems to be that he needs to learn to love himself again, but that’s impossible until society gets over its ‘fear of the unknown; not just of the effects of the drug but of the situation that people who need help are in’ as Woods says in the show programme.
Ultimately Give Me Your Love ingeniously tackles society’s stigma of mental health with humour and plenty of tenderness. We could definitely use more of that.