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The Theatreguide.London Review

When You Cure Me
Bush Theatre      November 2005

A crisis doesn't really change us - it makes us like ourselves, but more so. Qualities we have always had are intensified and underlined by trauma, making everything more extreme, but also sharper and clearer.

That is the main impression of Jack Thorne's warm and amiable play, whose seemingly incidental observations prove more central and evocative than its surface plot.

Rachel is a teenager who was violently raped by a stranger, and her psychological wounds have manifested themselves in an hysterical paralysis of her legs.

Everyone acknowledges that the condition will eventually pass but right now it is not just a symptom but a compounding trauma, since it produces feelings of powerlessness and dependence that any teenager would find unbearable.

Thorne's insight is that, as Rachel, her mother, her boyfriend and some schoolfriends try to cope with the situation, their responses are exactly those a teenage girl, her mother, her boyfriend and other adolescents would have in normal circumstances, only more sharply seen and felt.

Rachel wavers wildly between bouts of self-pity and self-disgust. She complains when her mother hovers over her and when she backs off, exactly as she would were she not bedridden, only with an intensity that exposes how wounded she is.

She sends her boyfriend mixed sexual signals with a testing-her-powers flirtatiousness she is scarcely aware of, with only our sense of its inappropriateness in this situation letting us notice it.

The boyfriend displays admirable maturity and dedication to her, but it is also tinged with a not-unattractive self-dramatisation as he casts himself in the role of hero.

The other teens act with the awkwardness of kids who call themselves friends only because they're in the same class, and are now faced with the burdens of real friendship - and, all things considered, they meet the challenge pretty well.

And that, ultimately, is Thorne's conclusion, that essentially decent people will respond to a crisis with essential decency and probably muddle their way through it.

He doesn't tack any sudden happy ending on the story, but life will go on, and things will probably get better. And that is a surprisingly satisfying bit of reassurance.

Fine and nicely restrained acting by everyone involved, notably Morven Christie as Rachel and Samuel Barnett as the boyfriend, is an essential component of the play's success.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of When You Cure Me - Bush  Theatre 2005

 

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