Reviewed – 30th March 2018
“The three actors perform with unconditional energy and presence”
A powerful piece of theatre, ‘Mortgage’ has strangely misleading publicity which, consequently, leaves the audience in the odd situation of puzzling out the narrative of a brilliantly acted, directed and technically devised production. It is the centrepiece of ‘The DEvine Comedy Trilogy’ by David Glass, the first part being ‘Boredom’ and the third, ‘Heaven’. Abused and damaged, Stage Manager Mortgage has burned down the last theatre on Earth and is embarking on a painful healing process in an asylum, representing Purgatory. A collaboration between ‘Created a Monster’ and the ‘David Glass Ensemble’, the work combines physical theatre with inspiration from Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ to create a tragi-comedy about the will to overcome hopelessness and the inescapable relationship between destruction and creation. There is an underlying analogy to the struggle of the younger generation, often at the hands of their elders, to feel in control of their own lives and how this can lead to mental health issues, which in turn is managed by adults.
Briony O’Callaghan commands the stage as Mortgage, battling through sessions of therapy and medication, zigzagging from fits of hysteria to lucid memories of the past and trance-like resignation. Her doctors, François Testory and Simon Gleave produce a perfect balance of the unexpected, humour and intimidation. Their contrasting personalities are prominent from the beginning, even in their inextricably linked relationship – one, younger, bolder, more demonstrative and the other, older, more restrained, sharper. The three actors perform with unconditional energy and presence. From vivid movement, slow dance-like scenes, comic routines and cleverly formulated dialogue we are led from Mortgage’s agonising physical distress to her gradual, coherent reconstruction and regaining of hope.
On the technical side (Paul Micah) an interesting selection of music and sound fits beautifully with the contrasting moods of the play, calm moments of respite breaking up the emotional intensity and the lighting is inventive in its dramatic effects on an almost empty set. The intrigue of the costumes, the significance of which is revealed eventually, shows how the details are carefully chosen and designed.
The concept of Mortgage is much clearer after a post-performance chat with the cast (originally advertised as a panel discussion about mental health and loneliness in the younger generation) as they explain the background to the project – the motivation, the concept of the trilogy and the theme of this part, including the derivation of the name, Mortgage. In addition to this, the absence of credits on the programme suggests that it is a work in progress. However, that would be to undersell the inspirational direction of David Glass and the exciting and multi-layered quality of the show, performed with great artistry.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington