Ironic isn’t it? A show about a psychopath and it made me want to kill someone. It’s too easy to have reactions like this to plays such as Captive Minds. Yet it’s important to acknowledge these insensitive and unintelligent reactions. Sometimes they manifest for interesting reasons.
One reason: the words themselves. Exchanges between people in real life are generally interminably dull. We exchange banalities, clichés and other kinds of linguistic fluff because we have to; it’s how we oil social mechanisms, it’s necessary to operate in society. But this fluff rarely has a place on the stage. Should art that relies on language elevate its medium, trim the stuff that does little except acknowledge the presence of another person? Yes, it should. Small talk in play scripts almost always results in dull, dull theatre. Of course, it can be reworked and made into something interesting. But this is not a feature of Captive Minds. Instead, its text is a living, toxic tissue of cliché and stock phrases, relentlessly exchanged between characters in any situation no matter how difficult or emotionally complex. In some ways collating a whole script this way is impressive because a story - and one that is potentially interesting - does manage to take place. Although when people can’t say anything interesting to each other, the story becomes obsolete.
Another reason: the performances. Slow, slow, slow. Listening to small talk is bad enough when it’s not slowed down so that every agonising banality can be scrutinised. One on one exchanges need energy, they need pace. When humans talk, they talk quickly. It’s not hard to keep up with fast dialogue. The cast aren’t incompetent but they really need someone to tell them to get on with it.
Captive Minds does have a story to tell. A girl re-examines her life after contact with a monster and the suggestion is that evil, in this situation, had a redeeming power. It has potential. Without the language to support the structure of the story, however, it collapses. It’s too easy to be cruel to plays like this; they’ve put a lot of work in and they’ve had some good ideas. However, with fabric this poor making up the tapestry of a good story, it becomes necessary to suggest ripping it up and starting again.