Normal is an Illusion

The concept of normality in relation to sanity and the individual is truly fascinating, and Normal Is An Illusion certainly introduces these ideas with thought and contemplation. Set in an institute for the criminally insane, we meet a number of the staff and patients through individual and group therapy sessions and are invited to question what exactly is 'normal'.

The script is good, the actors are talented.

Anastasios Chalas' play shows promise as a piece of writing. The dialogue is mostly very natural and it is clear that a lot of research and thought has gone into the script. However, even if this play works as a text, as a performance it does leave something to be desired.

The driving force of this piece lies in the intellect behind it, not in the performance. As a mostly naturalistic piece it is staged poorly. Desks, chairs, tables and beds are constantly being carried on and offstage in a very clumsy manner that diffuses any tension and really hinders the flow of scenes with poor transitions. I understand that a scene change can't always be done in a matter of seconds, but if they are going to take a long time, it needs to be given an essence of performativity. It is not exciting or interesting for an audience to watch actors moving around in the dark trying to work out where each item needs to go if there is no audible accompaniment or distraction to avoid boredom.

Though all of the actors play their parts well, after half an hour of watching the same scene with different patients, the piece lacks the variety that is necessary to keep us engaged. Undoubtedly the piece is interesting, but without engagement, no amount of intellect can stop a performance from being dull. The lack of variety in tone means that even strong conceptual ideas like this one can lose an audience.

Unfortunately Normal Is An Illusion demonstrates how brilliant ideas don't necessarily translate well onto the stage. The script is good, the actors are talented, but there is no variation and staging decisions leave a lot to be desired. At times I got the impression that I could have received exactly the same stimulation from reading an essay. A performance needs to excite and engage, but unfortunately this production did neither.

Reviews by Alex Hargreaves

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The Blurb

Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. Who can really define insanity, how can you see beyond the fine line that separates our definition of normality to the abnormality of the criminally insane? In this psychological drama, Dr Turner introduces his newly appointed therapist in the CA ward for the criminally insane. With every patient, with every story, Dr Gallagher will find out that normal is simply an illusion.

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