Tuesday, November 29

The Wonderful World of Dissocia – Stratford East

Anthony Nielson’s dizzyingly timeless play is given a spectacular revival. The story follows a young woman, Lisa who receives a visit from a peculiar watchmaker explaining why her wristwatch is broken. He sends her on wild goose chase to the land of Dissocia where she seeks to restore her life’s balance. She meets a plethora of colourful characters bound by a strange collective consciousness. Think of Alice in Wonderland with more wit and luridness. Neilson’s play explores dissociative disorder from the perspective of the sufferer, whilst also showing the absurdity within our social world.

The set designed by Grace Smart along with Alexandra Faye-Braithwaite’s sound design combine to create the surreal feeling of a children’s TV show with brightly coloured, 2D cardboard cut outs of scenery. This had an eerie effect paired with the outlandish/extremity of the characters and made the dressed down, sombre second half feel like its own absurdly bleak world in contrast.

Emma Baggots’ direction is perfectly orchestrated chaos. Throughout, there is a clear rhythm and tempo for their madness with sane moments as they consider Lisa’s attitudes and reply with their own bizarre logic. The ensemble is superb, gelling together exquisitely as well as shining in their individual parts.

Leander Deeny and Tomi Ogbaro are fantastic as the two guards, teeming with energy and exuberance. Archie Backhouse’s goat is grotesquely childlike and menacing. Phoebe Naughton is freakishly funny as the scheming hot dog server, Britney. Leah Harvey portrays Lisa as sweet, innocent and naive with a strong sense of resolve and their performance in the second half is particularly evocative, showing Lisa’s restlessness and frustration.

The casts’ immaculate comedic timing conveys the humour in Nielson’s writing and brings Dissocia to life. The synchronised steps and the strong physicalisation of each individual character directed by Angela Gasparetto was hypnotically immersive.

The bittersweet feel of Dissocia expresses the sad lure that this imaginary world has over Lisa and her internal struggle between freedom and escapism. This production is comforting and jarring at the same time, alerting us to the dark corners of the psyche and the harsh life we live in.

Playing until 15th October, https://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/the-wonderful-world-of-dissocia

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 23rd September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★