Dissociated is a play about Alex who was allowed to feel empowered and strong for the last time at her sixth birthday when hitting a pinata. Afterwards the repeated sexual abuse started, followed by the traumatic experience of not being taken seriously by her own family – the offender was her uncle. Alex learned to smile, learned not to be a burden but now, as a medical student, the wounds of her survival manifests herself in Annies, versions of herself she meets when dreaming lucidly. Her dreams take off from an imaginative airport terminal, frustratingly bad coordinated by her mother and while constantly trying to find their correct gate both Alex and Annie argue about the use of sleeping pills, alcohol consumption, gambling, partying, exams and marriage cancellations – but they become friends soon. Wouldn’t it be exciting to meet your 76-year-old self and have a hot cup of cacao with her? Or to heckle your career-focused middle-aged self, giving a lecture at UCL? These future Annies, well, future Alexes, thankfully assure the audience that Dissociated stays a survival story and is not a suicide documentary, but the struggle is constant; Alex’ attempts to outsource her therapy to Annie fail.
When speech is just not enough to express feelings and pain (and which child has not felt powerless when realising a lack of vocabulary?) songs evolve and the dialogue turns into musical numbers. In the interval, 75 minutes into the play respectively, these are already hummed in the cubicle next to me and the impressive strength of the songs discussed in the bathroom queue.
Dissociated was written by therapist Dave Bain who shares more of his work with those exposed to impact of sexual abuse in childhood years in the excellent (and pardon, on other pages surprisingly funny) program and further about the charities he works with. I did not know before tonight that every fourth person has is a victim of child sexual abuse and trauma; I count the seats in the audience now, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. And because I am already doing this right now in my theatre seat, I am completely against giving Dissociated an 18+ rating – we just have been reminded what a lonely, powerless place childhood was and is and therefore stories like these need to be seen by mature audiences but cannot exclude those who sadly relate to them most and need to allow themselves to identify as victims.
Annie was Alex’ favourite musical character as a child. Annies are also the dummies you practice CPR with – I have just been reminded to sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course next year.
Written by Dave Bain
**** out of 5 stars
Played until October 26th at the Etcetera Theatre
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