The new series of the Fizzy Sherbet Podcast launches with The Diagnosis, an audio play written by Athena Stevens. Directed by Anna Girvan, it tells the story of a remote-working London Underground security worker, played by Lizzie Annis, who monitors her area from home using drone cameras. One day she can suddenly see the cause and date of people’s future disabilities floating above their heads. Any attempts she makes to help people are ignored, but the consequences of her efforts change every aspect of her life regardless. The play is followed by an interesting Q&A with the cast and crew, exploring the origins and themes of the piece and the role of activism in today’s society.
The play opens with Annis speaking to the police about a shocking incident, which has a long story. Her statement is interrupted by frequent interjections from Cara Balingall, which on the surface feel increasingly random as the piece progresses, but which reach a clever conclusion at the end. As this is an audio drama with no visual, it does take a little while to work out where both characters are speaking from, and this could be improved through greater use of background sound effects.
The piece appears to be set in the not too distant future, with remote-working appearing to be a settled practice and some futuristic elements dropped in, but the worldbuilding could be stronger, particularly in an audio piece which relies entirely on sound to make its point.
The play creates a good sense of Annis being ignored by the people around her, particularly her carer who responds particularly badly to her efforts to change her future. It does an excellent job of creating the disturbing sense of “being in the way” which is unfortunately too common within the disabled community. There are elements which explore issues of dating with a disability and being a source of ridicule which are done very well and would be worthy of further exploration.
There is a sense of the piece being unfinished in some ways and it would be very suitable for further development and exploration. The Q&A which follows the play is very interesting and both the writer and director clearly have a lot more to say about the issues; the fact that the Q&A is significantly longer than the play itself enhances this and creates the feeling that there is a lot more that the play could do as a piece of theatre.
The Diagnosis is a look at what happens when you’re shouting about impending doom, but no one pays any attention. It is an interesting play which with further development could be a fantastic exploration of the experience of disabled people in a world which doesn’t want to listen to them. Annis’ character has multiple layers which make her a realistic and unique character who is both sympathetic and helpful to the people around her and has an inner strength which allows her to enjoy the irony of the futures she knows they will have. This is a thought-provoking drama with a Q&A which will enhance your understanding and leave you with a number of questions of your own to consider.
The Fizzy Sherbet Podcast is available until 28th March 2022 wherever you listen to podcasts. https://www.fizzysherbetplays.com/podcast
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 16th January 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★