Written by A J Taudevin
Directed by Clare Duffy
The word hysteria originates from the Ancient Greek word for uterus, hystéra, and was used for thousands of years to describe a ‘disease’ that only inflicted women, initially thought to have been caused by a ‘wandering womb’. The symptoms included anxiety, irritability, emotional outbursts and sexually forward behaviour.
Jeez, commit me now!
Fortunately, it is an out-dated term no longer used in psychiatry. However the stigma still lingers, and we women are constantly fighting the notion that we’re all emotional, crazy, hysterical…
Hysteria! attempts to tackle these issues by speaking powerful truths in an emotionally satisfying and entertaining way, and with a song and dance in its heart.
The self-described political cabaret takes a hard look at the world today, with a focus on sexual politics and mental health issues. It explores how women are still objectified, even when they are supposed to be respected political leaders, how a man who openly embodies this objectification is now in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world, and what effect this is having on society as we know it.
It is a heavy piece, there is no doubt, but it is a significant one that is positively essential right now. And the overall message is that we can and should stand up for ourselves, let it out, and invoke change. Womanpower!
Interestingly, it does not have an all-female cast, as one might expect. The decision to cast George Drennan alongside Annie Grace (both The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart), and Maryam Hamidi (The Chronicles of Irania), was an effective one, as it brings a certain energy to the show that it might not have otherwise had. At times it is amusing to hear Drennan speak as if he, too, were a woman, however at other times it can feel uncomfortable, when he speaks of issues such as rape.
Maryam Hamidi’s choreography is fun, lively and well synchronised, and Anna Porubcansky’s musical direction of the memorable tunes, carried by the talented singers, and even the occasional rap (in Scottish!) is glorious. All of this intertwined with musical instruments, spoken word and audience participation, makes for a decidedly satisfying theatre experience.
It ends perfectly, with a rendition of (I Can’t Keep) Quiet by Milck, presumably inspired by the flashmobs at the women’s marches earlier this year. Lyric sheets are provided, encouraging the audience to join in, and I doubt I was the only one who had tears streaming down her face during the highly poignant song.
Overall director Clare Duffy succeeds in tying together a witty and bold theatre experience, one which causes the audience to think deeply about the issues of sexism that plague politics and society, and the adverse effect it has on mental health.
If you, like me, suffer your own silent journey of dealing with mental health, I urge you to go see Hysteria! and feel inspired to let it out.
by Jo Osborne
Book now for Hysteria!, running at A Play A Pie & A Pint at Òran Mór, Glasgow until Sat 14 Oct, before moving to the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 17-21 Oct. All shows from 1-2pm, with an additional show on Fri 20 Oct from 7-8pm. All tickets include a pie and a drink.