EFR - Reviews of Her Right Mind

Her Right Mind

Mon 20th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Rivkah Brown

at 23:43 on 22nd Aug 2012

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‘Her Right Mind’ opens how all good theatre ought: with a dance. Less a dance, perhaps, than a routine, following the daily rhythms of the lives of siblings Jack and Jill, from sleep to tooth-brushing to breakfast to work and so on. Other than allowing the audience to compute what is going on, and to contextualise the performance, the sketch (which becomes a refrain throughout the performance) is incredibly well-oiled, each prop timed to change hands at precisely the right millisecond.

Physical theatre is clearly Rugged Isaac’s strongpoint, and the best moments of the show are unspoken: the physical theatre recreating Jack and Jill’s holiday in France, or Jack and Mandy’s courtship are picture-perfect, evocative of a postcard from some seaside town. On the flip-side of this is the harrowing portrayal of the psychological trauma undergone by Jack, inventively compensating for his lack of natural facility with words. The fluidity of movement and even easy scene changes are all indicative of a devised process of composition, which seems to have worked in the group’s favour.

It only becomes clear later that such perfectly-planned ‘dance routines’ are slightly removed from the truth, as Jill attempts to create a routine for her perhaps autistic, perhaps obsessive compulsive brother: no medical condition is ever specified, but remains heavily insinuated. Lilly Pollard is a wholehearted Jill, though occasional mawkishness does drain her performance. Sam Caseley’s Jack is less subtle, and seems to swing between social awkwardness and facility; however his romance with Mandy, played by a dewy-eyed Izabella Malewska, is well-pitched, steering well clear of over-sentimentality.

The play interlaces scenes of Jack and Jill’s domestic claustrophobia with the memories sparked by a box of slides of an old family holiday. The symmetry of the performance is masterful, with tensions rising both in the present day and remembered past, finally collapsing in on itself in an understated and quite unexpected conclusion. Kudos are certainly in order for whoever selected the music to help each scene segue into the next: the mixture of French and English tunes is particularly delicate, and gives the performance polish.

‘Her Right Mind’ is visually and aurally beautiful, though emotionally undercooked: it leaves one intensely curious about the fragile fraternal dynamics between Jack and Jill, but hungry for more.

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Sukhmani Khatkar

at 01:55 on 23rd Aug 2012

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“Her Right Mind” is touching, original and, perhaps most impressively, delivered with a finesse that had me captivated throughout. It documents the brother-sister relationship between Jack and Jill; a moving portrayal of a family relationship that has been made fraught by Aspergers. Lilly Pollard’s Jill devises a stringent daily schedule for Jack; a rhythmic, regular routine that helps keep a check on some of his obsessive insecurities. Sensitive characterisation and stylish production ensure that “Her Right Mind” is honest without being twee or trite.

Pollard and Sam Casely, who portrays Jack, are to be highly commended for their mature acting. In exploring the siblings’ relationship we see not only their incredible closeness but also the pain of having to reconcile divergent ambitions and perspectives. Dealing with themes of control, normalcy and “coming of age”, this production offers a fresh take on these issues without reverting to age old cliches or succumbing to predictability. For example, we witness Jill’s anguish as she watches her brother unexpectedly reject the protectionism she has thus far cocooned him with and open himself up to Izabella Malewska’s character, Maddy. Furthermore, the poignant ending seems to offer a meditation on her acceptance of this new situation. Rather than simply celebrating the togetherness of two people who have experienced mutual difficulties, it is refreshing to see a production that accepts the basic fact that, in certain situations, it is necessary for people to move in different directions.

Aside from the obvious talent of the cast, perhaps this production’s most impressive features are the stylistic choices made by its creators and directors. An eclectic set of musical choices focusing around John Fred & His Playboy Band’s “Judy in Disguise”, as well as contributions from Queen and Nina Simone, are used to showcase a number of mimes. Indeed, they serve as a soundtrack for Jack’s “routine”; skillfully choreographed and well executed, we are made fully aware of the precision accuracy with which Jill feels she must control his behaviour. Furthermore, inventive use of an array of props highlights the sheer professionalism and boldness of both cast and crew.

“Her Right Mind” is performed in consummate fashion. It deals with sensitive issues whilst managing to offer a twist of originality.

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