Hysteria is a cabaret crossed with spoken word poetry mashed on top of some very serious writing. Combine this with a never ending stream of high energy in the tiny basement theatre of the Oran Mor and you are left feeling perplexed and rather unsatisfied. Unfortunately for both actors and audience it was a distracted performance. Smashed glasses and a collapsed audience member drew focus away from the hard working performers but the reception of the show remains the same. It is a jumble of messages with not one outstanding point making itself known therefore we never fully connect with the subject matter.
We started off at a million miles per hour, jumping between sketches, songs and spoken word about people around the world who suffer from various mental health problems without specifically mentioning what they are. This is enjoyable as it is relatable and follows a nice pattern of light and dark. As the show progresses however it seems to steer more towards mental health in women, and then mental health in regards to the historical misconception that it had something to do with women's reproductive systems. At this point a logical progression would be to continue on this path of discovery about the misconceptions and cultural developments surrounding women and their mental health. But this all suddenly grinds to a halt; and we find ourselves on a slow path to nowhere talking about ‘rape’. It is well researched material, but it is performed more like a Ted Talk, or a conference on ‘rape’ about the laws surrounding it and just the three actors repeating testimonies. This may have worked had the entire piece been about three women and their experiences so that the audience had connected with seemingly real characters, but due to the opening cabaret style of performance the actors has become no more than vessels in the audiences eyes and therefore there was little emotional connection to them.
Aside from one misplaced ‘exercise video’ moment the slow second half of the show does not improve until the inclusion of the song ‘Quiet’ which was written for the woman's march. A few audience members joined in the singing of the song and were very clearly moved by the piece but even their emotion roused little in me as I was still baffled by the question ‘what is this show attempting to do?’
The theatrics of the show are funny but distract so heavily from the core of the piece which is ‘rape’ that I am not lead to feel sad, or angry or roused by some of the very powerful material which is spoken in this play, therefore that hard work becomes redundant because I am just left feeling bored and bruised by it. - Lucy Newbery