Treacle

This devised two-hander attempts to confront the social stigma faced by those with mental illnesses. One Ginny Turner unwittingly posts a video online revealing her schizophrenia: the play examines the impact of this public admission on her work and family life, interspersed with updates about the growing popularity of the video from newsreaders.

The two actors successfully navigate a set crammed with props

However worthwhile and admirable its aims, Treacle fails to adequately develop any of the characters beyond their diagnoses. Ginny and the host of fairly stock characters who react to the news - her worried, dithering mother; her unfeeling boss - are one-dimensional at the beginning of the play and remain so throughout. It is difficult to empathise with characters who fall so short of resembling people. In order to drive its message home, the script instead resorts to dialogue dealing with the issue at hand explicitly. Unsurprisingly, this feels unrealistic and awkward - the ‘show, don’t tell’ maxim has apparently been forgotten here.

The lack of complexity in the writing is further emphasised by the performances. The physical proximity of the performance space to us could be used to create intimacy, but at no point do the actors make eye contact or speak to us directly, instead racing through the script staring squarely into the middle distance.

Treacle never quite fosters sufficient empathy between us and the characters to provoke feelings of responsibility for the stigma depicted. While the two actors successfully navigate a set crammed with props, the unwavering high energy of the piece meant that moments of intensity lost any resonance that might have otherwise shone through. 

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Performances

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The Blurb

One in four people in the UK experience mental illness every year. But we still don't talk about it. Two friends try to change this by taking a show to the Fringe. Expect humour, hardships, real life stories and some treacle.

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