Deeply meaningful and uncomfortably honest at times, purged presents Alex (Orla Sanders) and his desire and failure to verbally explain his mental health problems to the audience.
The last few minutes break your heart with its simplicity
Told in second person, Sanders gives a bold performance, breaking the boundaries between herself and the audience. By greeting certain members at the beginning, she cleverly captures their attention as well as implicitly implying the likeliness that others in the room could someday be in Alex’s shoes, raising awareness of mental health throughout the show.
Between the fragments of Alex’s story, Sanders incorporates movement into the piece, which is interesting to watch and adds to the depth of the performance by allowing the audience to decide what it represents. Alongside this, the choice to keep most of Alex’s general personality and interests hidden, is what makes the show so personal and thought-provoking, because Alex could genuinely be any one of us.
A feature that livens up her storytelling is Sanders’ excellent portrayal of the other characters, which were each easy to recognize: the skeptical brother by his deep voice and stereotypically masculine physicality, Alex’s young niece ‘Little Alex’, by her facial expressions and tendency to play with the front of her top, and the third Alex, who, perhaps to draw parallels between the two characters, is played similarly to Alex himself. What makes Sanders’ portrayal of these characters so memorable, however, is that she displays not just the nature of these people, but their complicated views of mental health. She uses dark humour at one point to suggest that the brother would never be brave enough to kill himself, before perfectly turning around the atmosphere in the room by imagining how a joint suicide could be the way to finally connect with him.
Whilst not by any means perfect, purged would lose its meaning if it was. Different emotions are explored with Sanders switching from one to another in a second without any of the moments losing their meaning. Although its intensity gives it charm, a lighter start would perhaps help ease the audience into the heaviness of the piece a little more, though in total the structure of the show is well thought out. The last few minutes break your heart with its simplicity. When a show such as this comes round, that does such a wonderful job of representing the struggles that come with talking about mental health problems, it would be a shame to miss it.