Shoreditch Town Hall
Reviewed – 15th March 2018
“The mix ultimately creates a rich and jagged brawl”
The programme for MADHOUSE re:exit describes the story of Mabel Cooper, a woman who was institutionalised due to being out of wedlock. After her release in the 1980s she went on to become a key voice in the battle to close long stay hospitals. This promenade show, created by Access All Areas, uses the history of these institutions as inspiration to examine the past and present treatment of people with learning disabilities.
We are invited to Shoreditch Town Hall for a guided tour of Paradise Fields, a new modern care facility. Led into a sterile waiting area, polished videos and slightly too smiley guides welcome us. However, this sheen is broken by the presence of Patients 36, disruptive forces intended to show us the truth behind the visage. They lead us on their alternative tour, comprised of pieces created by five artists and eight researchers, disrupting our experience with a mix of shocking, funny and interesting experiences. The mix ultimately creates a rich and jagged brawl.
A piece of this kind relies on the performances we are led to. Each of these is distinct and vary wildly to create surprises as we enter each room. They swerve from the beautiful, movement pieces from DJ Hassan and Imogen Roberts that create powerful images of caged birds and ancient goddesses. Cian Binchy’s Baby and David Munnis’s Escapist clearly examine both coddling patronisation and the wish to escape from being defined and categorised. Most shocking to witness is Dayo Koleosho’s power play on humiliation, full of images that stick long after the show.
The production from Nick Llewellyn is smooth and confident, with each switch between room never frustrating. It is complimented by the design work from Joanna Scotcher and the rest of the team which leaps between time and place with a beautiful detail for the most part, but some spaces do feel more complete than others.
The niggling shame of the show lies in a story which doesn’t quite merge the parts into a fully satisfying whole, building to an unclimactic ending that doesn’t quite match the feeling that comes before. But this is a deep and impressive show that uses its venue to full potential and brings a provocative and important voice to the discussion.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Photography by Helen Murray
Shoreditch Town Hall until 28th March