The Effects of Solitude

Written and performed by Noni Townshend, The Effects of Solitude unfolds with a disarming serenity. Townshend plays Alex, a volunteer in a worldwide study of the effects of extreme isolation on the human psyche. Can she survive alone, sans laptop, Netflix, books and any connection to the outside world? For how long?

Isolated by force or by choice, being too alone for too long is unhealthy. One really is the loneliest number.

In her whispery voice, Townshend, working in a 20-seat space, using only a white chair and small white tray-table, draws us into her monologue. She alternates between data-filled lectures about how the study will be used in prison systems and space travel, and her increasingly distraught inner dialogue as she deals with feeling trapped in the spartan flat where she is observed by researchers via video cameras.

Plunged into enforced “alone time,” Alex soon experiences aural hallucinations, a common side effect of solitary confinement, and she anthropomorphizes her pillow, talking to it like Tom Hanks to his volleyball in Castaway. Madness seems to lurk in the corners where Alex thinks she hears whispers.

Townshend’s writing is spare and elegant, though the script might benefit from raising the stakes of Alex’s dilemma a little earlier. Throughout the one-hour piece, Townshend’s acting is relaxed and natural, no big moves or emotional overflows.

She and director Keiran Hardie, both from Dundee, have hit on something important in this little play. Isolated by force or by choice, being too alone for too long is unhealthy. One really is the loneliest number.

Reviews by Elaine Liner

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The Blurb

Isolation can do strange things to the human mind. It warps and changes your world quicker than you could have ever imagined. In Non-Lupine Productions’ premiere show, in association with DBS Productions, Alex, a young student, volunteers for a study of questionable morality. Three weeks, trapped, with no human contact at all will leave them fighting for every scrap of reality. Delving into a truly fascinating area of human psychology, this show confronts one of our greatest fears: loneliness.