Lisa (Christine Entwhistle), is informed by a mysterious visitor that her recent troubles stem from the accidental loss of an hour of her life. Her quest to regain it takes her to Dissocia, where she encounters bumbling insecurity guards, evil scapegoats and an unusual lost property office. Her journey veers (as all the best fairy tales do) from whimsy to horror and back again. It’s full of song, dance and stage effects, executed by a cast whose own fearlessness and intensity mirrors that of the writing.
In the second half, the stagecraft and energy that went into creating Dissocia is turned to a different end. Lisa lies in a hospital ward, recreated in intense and painful detail. The sound design that filled the first half with noise now provides an immersive ambience of humming lights and distant plumbing. Pantomime mania is replaced by understated naturalism. Nurses, doctors and visitors come and go in tiny, occasionally wordless vignettes, dispensing drugs and banal conversation.
We already know that this is what’s really going on. We’ve heard snatches of conversation from the world outside Lisa’s head whispering through the speakers on either side of the stage. Dissocia is plagued by the ‘Black Dog’ – a term often used to describe clinical depression – whose ‘attacks’ look remarkably similar to the effects of ECT.
The symbolism may be unsubtle, but the play’s message is not. There’s no attempt to suggest that madness is somehow a preferred state, or that those who treat it are hostile and narrow-minded. Lisa, recovering, listens disconsolately to music that no longer sends her careering ecstatically around the room – but doesn’t send her into a screaming fit either. Her boyfriend Vince (Jack Jones) may well be a little bit ‘normal’ – but ultimately his loving tolerance seems like a deeper reward than anything Dissocia, for all its manic hilarity, can offer.