Declan Cooke is a physically big guy with a powerful presence: if you saw him standing at the bar you would imagine him to be full of confidence and completely in control of his life. This makes for a disturbing contradiction in his performance as Tom that challenges such presuppositions. Why is his mind not as strong as his body appears? Of course, there is no reason why it should be. Mental disorders are not on the outside but in the recesses of the mind and it’s to those places we are taken on this harrowing journey.
The agonising conversations and painful introspection are unrelenting and despite the animation of individual scenes the play as whole moves slowly.
Tom talks lovingly to Rosita, his Barbie doll, in an early childhood scene. He’s abruptly told that little boys don’t play with dolls and maybe that was where it all started to go wrong. It’s one of a series of incidents that now torture him that unfold painfully on the bare stage. Nigel Fyfe, Kim Maouhoub and Paul Storan give suitably chilling performances as people who have contributed to Tom’s condition and as tormentors of his mind arguing about just how far they can push him. Tom can barely live with the noises in his head but conversely he finds it “too loud when it’s quiet.” He ponders on the thought that maybe he “was wired up all wrong.”
The play is neatly constructed in episodes that flow smoothly from one to the next. Like Job’s comforters characters move effortlessly into out of Tom’s life and mind. Their dialogue, however, is littered with more use of the ‘F’ word than I can ever recall in a play or everyday conversation: so much so that it becomes redundant as a means emphasis and embarrassingly uncomfortable in its excess. The agonising conversations and painful introspection are unrelenting and despite the animation of individual scenes the play as whole moves slowly. It’s an interesting exercise in the exploration of a man struggling with his past and the surfacing of his subconscious, but it does have the feel of being just that.