REVIEW: Dissociated (Etcetera Theatre) ★★★

One doesn’t attend performances at tiny above pub venues like the Etcetera Theatre expecting to see polished and ready for the west end shows and Dissociated is certainly no exception. However, it has a nugget of what could be a truly beautiful, courageous and successful show.

Alex played by Eloise Jones is a twenty-seven year old surgical student in her last year of training; her career is about to take off and she is getting married and seems to have everything going for her.

However, her sleeping has become increasingly disrupted. To cope, she takes sleeping pills but her situation worsens and she starts to have panic attacks.

As Alex retreats into a world of dreams, her mental health worsens and the barrier between what is real and imaginary starts to break down.

As we enter the theatre, props are handed out to various audience members as we are told that we will be joining Alex in her dreams. Jones is already “asleep” on a single mattress on the floor of a fairly bare stage above which hangs a brightly coloured pinata in the shape of a number 6.

As the performance starts, Alex is joined in her dream by Annie who announces herself as a 76 year old version of Alex. As the play progresses, Annie appears as six versions of Alex at different ages and the two of them piece together Alex’s history, building up a picture to explain where Alex finds herself in current times.

The premise is certainly clever and the staging is effective. As well as the interaction with the audience as the various props are reclaimed to support the narrative, there is good use of a large screen at the back of the stage. The story is threaded through with songs which the performers deliver well.

Eloise Jones as Alex is excellent – she has a really strong voice and great movement. It was no surprise to read that she choreographed the piece as well as starring in it. Georgia Imrie as Annie is also very good, tackling the challenge of playing Alex at different ages. It must be physically and emotionally draining to play these characters, particularly considering that they are the only two people on stage for the full duration.

The production has great potential but is somewhat muddled. At approx. 2 hours 15 mins plus interval it is over-long and at times overblown, over-wrought and way too cliched. However, with some serious editing and a little polish this could be a quite spectacular piece of theatre.

Review by Emma Heath


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