The scribblings and sketches of Miriam Gillinson, arts journalist
'Give Me Your Love' review or 'Thinking outside the box...'
'Give Me Your Love', Ridiculusmus Battersea Arts Centre, 13th January 2016 Written for Time Out
Given the fact this show involves one man trapped in a box and another hidden behind a door, ‘Give Me Your Love’ is somewhat of a triumph. We barely see the actors and struggle to hear them, yet there’s something strangely arresting about this latest exploration of mental health from experimental theatre company Ridiculusmus. It’s not nearly as wildly intoxicating as their last show, ‘Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland’, yet this is still an intriguingly understated and eerily effective piece of theatre.
The mental health condition under the microscope is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – and the way in which MDMA might be used to treat it. The patient in question is Iraq war veteran Zach (David Woods), who is so traumatised by his time in combat that he spends most of his life in a box. Whether that box is real or imaginary is up for grabs – as is almost everything in this gently trippy show.
Zach’s box is located in Jacob Williams’ stain-streaked and sparse set, which has a tinge of grubby fantasy about it. When Zach’s mate (Jon Haynes) turns up with a pill, reality begins to slide – but it’s all very slight and subtle and, in all honesty, often rather dull. In one scene, a nearly-naked Haynes scuttles across the stage, as rave music pounds and strobe lights pulse. But this is a principally a show of slow unsettlement: a pill is pulleyed across the stage at a glacial pace, strange flashes emerge from the box and seemingly innocuous chat feels oddly burdened.
By the end, we’re none the wiser about Zach’s trauma or the impact of the MDMA – but we are a little spooked. The box takes on a bizarre character of its own (are those slits or eyes?) and a tiny finger – swaying above the box – makes for an unbearably lonely sight. This isn’t easy or even exciting theatre but you’ll leave with a chill, keen to retreat to your version of normality.