A new piece of writing which aims to open a conversation about mental health, but instead relies on stereotypes and tropes.
The aptly named Obsession opens with Ivy (Kate Marston) counting and re-counting the items in her backpack: “1. Phone, 2. Keys….” before zipping her backpack three times and turning the lights on and off a further eight. It is this opening scene which sets the tone of the entire piece.
The play follows Ivy as her OCD spirals, and we see her four-year relationship with Sean (Chris Royle) follow suit. Neither of the two things are caused by the other; they both go hand in hand. Ivy’s obsessions are seen outside of her relationship with Sean too in her fitness sessions with Jim (Chris Udoh), who also happens to be a close friend of the couple, and there’s always the shadows of the Other Woman (Sophie Winter-King), naturally blonde, who sashays across the stage, always at the back of Ivy’s mind. Is she the embodiment of the perfection Ivy wishes to achieve? Or is she the fear that her boyfriend is seeing someone else? Likewise, it appears she is both at once.
Marston’s play is tackling an issue which needs to be spoken about, but unfortunately it does so in a clichéd way. I wanted to go into this show learning more about OCD (I assume the company have done their research, due to the ‘many thanks’ at the bottom of the programme) but sadly I was presented with stereotypes and tropes I already knew: the incessant cleaning with hand sanitiser, and constantly counting objects to name just two. Marston’s performance is nuanced in places as seen in the fidgety tapping of her fingers on her thigh, however.
Due to the clichés explored, the plot unfortunately became a tad predictable. It seemed obvious that Sean would leave her for another woman (who we only see licking cupcakes, which felt a bit too on the nose), and that Ivy would begin to seek help after he has left. It was a shame that the play perpetuated the idea that “men are shit at coping with big issues”, and that no further insight into th coniditon was given.
Performances from the four actors cannot be faulted, though there we no standout performances to keep the play driving forward. Udoh’s performance, with one liners and cheery attitude, was the only one which kept me interested.
The design of the small performance space by Sarah Mercadé has to be commended; the central coffee table and two chairs were slanted and slightly off-centre, suggesting that no matter what Ivy does, she won’t be able to put things into an exact position.
Obsession is a play with the makings of a stimulus for conversations about mental health, however, it may need further research to help it steer away from potentially perpetuating stereotypes.