'I love having OCD,' Michelle Mone, now Baroness of Mayfair, told Good Morning Britain on 13th October 2015, during OCD Awareness Week. This elicited a torrent of protest from UK OCD charities and sufferers alike, furious that a condition described by the World Health Organisation as one of the ten most disabling illnesses of any kind should be so trivialised. Jeremy Allen went further: he wrote a play to illustrate how devastating an OCD victim's experience of the condition could be, and how different from Michelle Mone's celebration of her tidy drawers and colour-coded wardrobe.
Jeremy Allen's play follows the progress of Jimmy, whose obsession with the possibility of an HIV infection jeopardises both his career and his marriage. Entwined with Jimmy's struggle against OCD is his therapist's struggle against the threat of NHS cuts and closures, budgets and bureaucracy, and the prioritisation of physical over mental illness. The play is neatly constructed to include all the material, ideas, perspectives and information Jeremy Allen wants to explore, smuggling in facts and statistics wherever possible. There were some good humorous scenes in the writing and there were some moving moments; in terms of drama, it would be more powerful if the tension within Jimmy could somehow be brought to life more visibly, and if more of his experiences could be witnessed rather than described.
The Saturday Matinee Company is carving out a unique and valuable niche for itself in the Oxford theatre scene. It is like a miniature local public service, with a remit very like the BBC's 'inform, educate and entertain': its productions always provide a helpful exploration of a topical issue of public concern. Its policy of 'pay what you can afford', the timing and location of its performances and focus on current concerns enables them to attract wider audiences. I would like to see the feedback statistics, but I always have the impression that audiences include an unusual number of members of the public who are not habitual theatre-goers. Moreover, the audiences are encouraged – and keen – to engage even more fully with the issues in the lively after-show discussions with the cast, author and local experts. If any theatre company is worthy of public funding, this one is – it deserves some kind of award for community involvement and the quality of public discussion it generates!