Do you remember when we used to do psychotherapy without psychedelics?
Ridiculusmus stage, at the Albany, Give Me Your Love, their second investigation into innovative approaches to mental health. A delicate, profound and witty exploration of the healing potential in altered states of consciousness.
Basato su due anni di ricerche biomediche e numerosi colloqui con veterani di guerra in Iraq, Afghanistan, Isole Falkland e con ex-soldati statunitensi, Give Me Your Love è il secondo progetto della Compagnia pluripremiata Ridiculusmus (David Woods and Jon Haynes), che esplora approcci innovativi alla salute mentale. Segno inconfondibile della Compagnia, l’esilarante connubio di ironia e serietà: nonsense, parossismi e dialoghi surreali diventano con Ridiculusmus mezzi efficacissimi per approfondire il potenziale terapeutico di stati alterati di coscienza e lanciare una sfida ai tabù sulla salute mentale e sull’uso di sostanze psicotrope, ancora considerate illegali. Zach è un veterano di guerra, che adesso vive nascosto in una scatola di cartone. Perché il mondo là fuori è pericoloso, e lui lo sa bene. Non vedremo mai il suo viso, come non vedremo mai gli altri due protagonisti, la moglie Carol e l’amico ed ex-soldato Ieuan, che gli parlano da dietro una porta chiusa. Protagonista della pièce pare essere lo spazio disadorno e sporco da cui Zach non riesce a uscire, una cucina spoglia dai muri logori e dove la luce del sole entra solo di sbieco. Zach è uno dei tanti ex-soldati che soffrono di sindrome post-traumatica da stress. Quando Ieuan gli offre aiuto – sotto forma di una pillola di MDMA, che pare abbia curato la sua ansia cronica – Zach sente l’irresistibile desiderio di provare.
War veteran Zach is living in a box. This is the only way he can avoid the traps of his enemies out there. He does not allow anybody to enter the room – a grimy, dirt-smeared and dark kitchen – so that even his best friend Ieuan has to speak to him from behind a locked door. We never see anything of Zach’s body apart from his legs and fingers peeking through the gaps in the cardboard; nor do we see his wife Carol or his friend, Ieuan. We almost get the impression that the real star of the show is the box – the room, the space itself. A space which is actually Zach’s mind space – his jail, somehow.
Two-man company Ridiculusmus stage at the Albany their second investigation into innovative approaches to mental health. Informed by the latest scientific researches, they explore the healing potential in altered states of consciousness. They do so with delicacy and profundity, thanks to a Dadaist humour – nonsense, illogical speeches, paradoxical situations – that make the audience get right into the subject without provoking tears of despair.
The topic, however, is far from easy: Zach is one of the many ex-soldiers being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he is simply unable to deal with the world outside the box. When Ieuan arrives offering recovery – in the form of a capsule containing MDMA, which seems to have helped him overcoming his own post-traumatic stress – we may get a little chuckle. But in fact, cutting edge researchers such as Ben Sessa, psychiatrist and coordinator of the UK’s first MDMA/PTSD clinical study, or Professor Michael Mithoefer in the US, extensively worked on trauma therapy using MDMA with several successful trials.
Ridiculusmus are able, through their funny way of deepening complex topics, to engage us with serious issues without us noticing. We are too busy laughing about the absurdity of the characters’ dialogues and by the friendly way they speak to each other, to realise that we are actually digging into the mind of a traumatised veteran who is not able anymore to interact with the world. Zach’s fantasies about having sex with his wife while withdrawing into the cardboard box are hilarious, as it is the improvised pulley that the two friends use to pass the pill to each other – in fact, Zach cannot touch anybody. Even when Zach confusingly remembers extremely violent experiences, that occurred during the war, we cannot avoid laughing by the way he merges real and imagined details. But while a dry-humour constantly keeps us light-hearted, we are gradually affected by more and more emotional moments. At the end, we leave Zach sitting against the wall, his wife asking rhetorically if he wants to come with her and the kids to the beach. Of course, this is not an option.
The interesting point here is that Ridiculusmus’ signature blend of silliness and seriousness appears to engage audiences intimately with delicate issues through making them feel comfortable: through building trust, somehow. The same trust that researchers aim to build through MDMA in therapeutic contexts. During the post-show talk, on Thursday the 4th of May, Jon Haynes and David Woods told us about their two year research into the subject. As Haynes and Woods claim, the key element of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA: with which ecstasy is made) seems to be its ability to build trust between user and therapist. A level of trust that, thanks to the drug, can be reached in a very short time, while other therapies might take years. «Trauma is incredibly hard to treat», British psychiatrist Ben Sessa says. «You sit in a room with a stranger and ask him/her to tell you about his/her child abuse and expect him/her to do it. They don’t. They can’t». That means, put in simple terms, that MDMA might be able to help people open up about their traumas, to reconnect sufferers and carers, make repressed emotional traumas easier to address and explore. MDMA is usually taken recreationally in rave contexts: «Imagine taking all that external energy that keeps you pumping all night on the dance floor and turning it inwards». As Sessa suggests: «In twenty years’ time, people may say: “Do you remember when we used to do psychotherapy without psychedelics?”».
Give me your love has been staged at
Thursday 4th and Friday 5h of May
Give Me Your Love
with Jon Haynes and David Woods
supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England; the Wellcome Trust; Royal Victoria Hall Foundation; Battersea Arts Centre; the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and the City of Melbourne through Arts House and its Culture Lab programme