“Temazepam. 10mg. Insomnia. Number 505.”
Side Effects, a piece of dance-theatre by dANTE OR dIE at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, was inspired by a British Museum exhibition which reckoned that the average British person will take around 14,000 pills in their lifetime. Devised and performed by a team of five, under Daphna Attias’ direction, it delves into personal history to reveal the social context behind the increased part that medicine now plays in our lives as well as its more expected curative role.
The beauty of this concept and the way it is executed by a company with ages ranging from 20 to 75, is that almost everyone can relate to it somehow and as so many of the people involved in the production have medical backgrounds, it is rooted in a strong understanding of the issues. For me it was the treats after trips to the hospital that resonated most, I am remember always having a special meal waiting for me each time after a series of operations as a boy and so therefore it was Terry O’Donovan’s performance of his ‘list’ of ailments and maladies leavened with his enlightening stories that moved me the most.
But Simon Rice’s middle-aged insomniac husband was persuasive, clinging onto shreds of vanity, posing in the mirror; Laure Bachelot was wryly amusing in her taking of the Pill; Antigone Avdi powerfully moving as a menopausal mother and Betsy Field distressingly frank about how dependent the elderly can become on a series of medications. Each performer managed to tell their own stories well, but there was real beauty in seeing how they interacted together: the casual nonchalance of a long-married couple, the heady sexual passion of young adults in love, the tenderness of a middle-aged woman caring for her ailing mother and all three women in the family just coming together for the sake of it.
Being given a little cup full of pills (they are actually sweets) as we left the studio was a brilliant little touch, it meant we all left with a smile but also harks back to those childhood memories although I personally would have liked a sticker with a smiley face too! Thought-provoking in the way it probes our reliance on medicine, drawing on connections we can all make and informative on just what to take for a whole range of things: I could have done with an extended dose of it.
Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: free cast/info sheet available
Booking until 13th February