In the words of playwright Dan Goodwin, Chrome Dome and Schizo offers “experiences of delusion shown in a hopeful way”. The play offers a kaleidoscopic vision of schizophrenia, love, and the frustrations of navigating a hostile health system. The forms of memory play and poetry intertwine to create a shifting and at times ambiguous narrative, at the centre of which cast member and writer Dan Goodwin shines.
Goodwin (as ‘Schizo’) brings an easy vulnerability which is necessary but often absent in the performance of material exploring the subject of mental health. The poetic language of the text and the fragmented narrative is protected from any sensation of posturing or overwrought emotion by Goodwin’s natural, and considerably charming, delivery.
At times Goodwin directs comments out to the audience, making eye contact and offering smiles often enough to suggest that the audience is not only privy to Schizo’s internal world, but are perhaps even inhabitants of their internal world. Positioning the audience as participants or witnesses, rather than spectators, does wonders to avoid the sensation of voyeurism, and in this judicious choice we perhaps see the hand of the director Rachael Longshaw-Park. Further staging choices and seating arrangements support Goodwin in establishing a comedic and empathic rapport with the audience. Future audience members should try to sit as close to the stage as possible to make the most of the intimacy offered to us.
The rest of the cast orbit Schizo, in ever expanding trajectories of connection: Georgie Llewellyn as ‘Chris’ balances angst and affection; Brit O’Rourke as ‘Laura’ brings a fleet foot and the teasing voice of friendship; and Sahil Arora as ‘Doctor’ delivers a suitable dose of clinical antagonism.
The lines between internal and external worlds and between voices and characters are blurred. While leading the audience into a state of uncertainty may be the intention of the piece, some delineation of ‘real’ and ‘not real’ seems to be signified by lighting and sound design elements. Ultimately there is not quite enough consistency in these features to be sure of the events of the play and some of the power of the emotions of the last ‘act’ are lost on an audience trying to decide if they should have been smart enough to decode it all. It is hard to tell if this opacity is deliberate or if it was the result of the technical difficulties which delayed the show on the opening night.
Later in the performance, and further adding to the enigmatic positioning of the piece, Schizo (Goodwin) and the Doctor (Arora) discuss whether it matters if an experience is ‘real’ or not. Schizo starts to ask why a delusion, if it is experienced by a person in fullness, should be dismissed as lacking any meaning? This philosophical question seems to confirm that the audience should indeed resist the urge to decipher ‘real events’ from delusion – after all everything presented on stage is real in the moment of performance. If this is indeed a core concept then it may have been worth seeding this idea earlier in the piece or repeating it in some manner as the play winds towards its close.
In a world in which theatre discussing mental health often manages to reinforce stigmas or reduce characters to their illnesses, Chrome Dome and Schizo is an at once honest and light-hearted breath of fresh air. The cast and crew have produced an engaging and moving play at the centre of which is a love which transcends the boundaries of reality.
Please note that the Basement Studio is not wheelchair or restricted mobility accessible.
Full trigger and content warnings are supplied before entry to the studio.