Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 18 January 2016

Give Me Your Love

BAC ⋄ 12th - 30th January 2016

Trying to think outside the box: Brendan Macdonald finds Ridiculusmus’s new show a “both humorous and at times moving exploration of trauma”.

Brendan Macdonald
Credit: Tristram Kenton

Credit: Tristram Kenton

Give Me Your Love sounds suspiciously like an early nineties electronic dance track; the kind that makes every jaw-clenched, water-parched raver want to stay out until the early sunrise of the next morning. And while Ridiculusmus’s Give Me Your Love does involve consumption of the ever popular party drug, it is through MDMA-assisted therapy as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Zach (David Woods), a Welsh war veteran back from Iraq, has sequestered himself in a cardboard box in his squalid kitchen as a result of PTSD. He tells his wife Carol (Jon Haynes) to her dismay of the recent MDMA-therapy trials in Cardiff, but luckily his friend Ieuan (Haynes) provides him with unregulated but highly sought-after medication. In this co-written work, we watch Zach travel through varying states of lucidity as he attempts to think outside the box. It’s a both humorous and at times moving exploration of trauma and why we seek alternative (and sometimes illegal) methods to get closer to its elusive epicentre.
Recent research in North Carolina has involved clinical trials administering MDMA to PTSD patients in which neither therapist nor patient are aware of the dosage. The therapist plays relaxing music and asks questions to pinpoint the origin of the PTSD. The play reflects the research with the bulk of the action centered on Zach’s and Ieuan’s encounter. Ieuan plays therapist, listening to The Beach Boys and coaxing Zach to relive his trauma, while Zach soars between feelings excitement, anger, and desperation within the confines of his cardboard cage.

We only ever see an appendage or two. Zach is no more than legs dangling out from his boxed body, while Ieuan is barred by the lock on the door so that only one of his arms makes it onstage. As for Carol, the only evidence of her at all is her bodiless voice. Even an aggregate sum of their parts would not make a human body. They are a visual metaphor of the fragmentation caused by trauma and make evident the need for rehabilitation.

With floating limbs and obstacles that impede their path (doors, chains, and a very unfortunately placed roll of tape), there is some excellent physical humour. It’s strongest when the rhythm of the dialogue is also tight, but the devised nature of the piece (formed by a long improvisation recorded on an iPhone) means that Woods and Haynes occasionally meander off the page, and the repetition becomes redundant. The work also suffers from a bizarrely timed hardcore rave track in the early half of the show, and a significant lag during the middle scene.

There’s a Beckettian quality in the stationary actors, their lingering voices, and the slightly absurd (and often hilarious) visual snapshots we get. Give Me Your Love is also about nothing, one of Beckett’s favourite themes. Very little happens onstage: we begin with a cardboard box, and we end with one. At a pivotal moment, Zach realises his trauma actually has no catalyst: ‘There was nothing … And that’s actually traumatic’.

It is of course challenging to determine a traumatic moment. In fact, Zach says about as much, ‘I didn’t know it was trauma at the time, which is the whole point.’ But to correlate the birth of his traumatic experience with nothingness itself, to the sheer banality of his experience, is to enter into a realm of existentialism and of deep human longing.

It’s similar to hearing the vocal hook on a dance track, ‘Give Me Your Love’ or some other call, endlessly repeating and the inevitable come-down after a long evening. But the hauntingness of the moment has little to do with the words spoken or even how Zach might be feeling. It has to do with the lack of response after a heartfelt plea. The silence of a friend. It is that same nothingness, that utter alienation that feels overwhelmingly present, almost suffocating. Nothing can be more traumatic.

It’s not a show designed to inform audiences of the benefits and limitations of treatment or the difficulties surrounding its implementation. And it only really peripherally touches on the stigma surrounding the drug and its uses (and abuses). Instead, Give Me Your Love is a repeated cry from nothingness across multiple states of consciousness, a desperate plea for rehabilitation not retreat, and for connection not alienation.

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Brendan Macdonald is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Give Me Your Love Show Info


Directed by David Woods & Jon Haynes

Written by David Woods & Jon Haynes

Cast includes David Woods & Jon Haynes

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