The Theatreguide.London Review
The Wonderful World of Dissocia
Royal Court Theatre Spring 2007
This production from the National Theatre of Scotland is a joyous and inventive romp that abruptly and successfully shifts gears midway through to become a moving drama.
Anthony Neilson's play is about Lisa, who feels out of sync with reality until it is explained that she somehow lost an hour in the switch from summer to standard time. That hour is in the land of Dissocia, where she must go to retrieve it.
What follows is an adventure openly evocative of both Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard Of Oz, as Lisa encounters a pair of insecure security guards, an actual scapegoat, a lullaby-singing polar bear, and other comic and bizarre figures.
Required to take an immigrant's oath of loyalty, she has to cue the oath-giver; looking for her lost hour, she learns that the Lost Property Office has been lost.
All this is done with great wit and high spirits, and along with the echoes of Wonderland and Oz, there are passing allusions to His Dark Materials, Monty Python and even Albee and Beckett.
What's going on is eventually explained in Act Two, though anyone who knows I Never Promised You A Rose Garden or The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari will have twigged somewhat earlier.
Where Act One is a fantasia, Act Two is solidly realistic, literally in a different world. Performed in an appropriately different style, it captures the rhythms and slow passage of time in a specific environment, counterbalancing Act One while also forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate it.
Serving as his own director, Anthony Neilson leads the cast (most of whom play multiple roles) into creating and sustaining not only the two contrasting realities of the two acts, but the very different tones and rhythms.
The only small criticism that can be made (aside from my earlier point that some might guess the play's secret too early) is that the final seconds of each act feature a revelation that is spelled out in the published text but not quite so clear in performance, so, just at those moments, the playwright's intentions might not be fulfilled.
Christine Entwhisle plays what amount to two different versions of Lisa with equal conviction and attractiveness. Among the others, you're likely to be particularly entertained by Barnaby Power's watchmaker and the insecurity guards of Jack James and Matthew Pidgeon.
But the real fun lies in the delightful fantasy of Act One and the very satisfying contrast of Act Two.
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