REVIEW: Takin’ Over the Asylum – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

asylum_2486486b

Credit – Tim Morozzo

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer: Donna Franceschild

Director: Mark Thomson

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

A play that has at its heart the issue of mental health wouldn’t seem like a likely choice for an evening’s entertainment, but Donna Franceschild’s stage adaptation of her acclaimed 1994 BBC TV series Takin’ Over the Asylum doesn’t just entertain; this tightly written and sharply crafted play is funny, heart-breaking and genuinely inspiring in equal measure.

Through the course of the narrative, the subtle cruelties of those charged with “caring” for the patients is shown and each character reveals the true nature of their illness and the heart-rending reasons for it. This roller-coaster ride of a play puts its audience through the emotional wringer: bringing laughter in one breath and tears the next, and all only possible through the combination of a taught script and some of the most affecting acting performances you are likely to see.

The sheer range and depth of emotion that Iain Robertson in the pivotal role of Eddie manages to convey is stunningly impressive: turning on a knife edge between despair, heart-break and happiness and doing it all with an utterly compellingly believability is testament to his phenomenal talent. That in the mercurial role of Campbell, (Brian Vernel) is an actor who doesn’t graduate from his training for another year almost beggars belief. They are ably supported by Helen Mallon as the vulnerable Francine, Caroline Paterson as germ-obsessed Rosalie and Grant O’Rourke as the tragic Fergus.

It could be argued that this is a less than convincing portrayal of mental health care in 2013, but the issues raised and attitudes highlighted have changed depressingly little since its source material was broadcast nearly twenty years ago. Ultimately though, this is a celebration of the truly good-hearted and an illustration of the fine line between sanity and so-called “madness”.

Often thought-provoking, occasionally tragic and always compelling, this production isn’t flawless but it’s as damn near close as you’ll get – unmissable.

Runs until: 9 March