The Wonderful World of Dissocia is a pitch-black absurdist comedy about the experiences of a young woman living with the challenges of a chronic mental illness. It’s absolutely packed with ridiculous wordplay, hilariously groan-worthy puns and allusions to the classic children’s story Alice in Wonderland.
Lisa Montgomery Jones is a rather sensible young woman who has lost an hour of her life on an intercontinental flight. This lost hour is forcing her out of balance, and on the advice of stranger in a 3 piece suit, she travels to Dissocia to find it.
The premise here is that Lisa is experiencing a dissociative disorder, and that we are about to bear witness to this affair. Regardless of the fact that it is highly doubtful that Lisa would meet the DSM-5 criteria for a dissociative disorder – rather, she appears to be experiencing some kind of psychosis – Dissocia is a compelling account of the tricks our minds can play on us. Much like Alice’s Wonderland, the world she enters on her mission to recover her lost hour is chaotic and dark and comforting by turns. Notably, , there is a sense of purpose in her journey that doesn’t exist in the grey reality of a hospital ward in Act Two.
The costuming for this show is brilliant, from Lisa’ s blue dress in the first act – which is the perfect contrast to her hospital gown in the second; to the Scapegoat’s tartan – which turns up later in a doctor’s handkerchief. The panda bear, singing of death, wears an amazing assortment of white fur and perfect paws; I cannot even begin to imagine how it was sourced. The props department also deserve some serious recognition for the sheer number of foam hotdogs created for the scenes in Lost Lost Property.
The unfortunate loss of a button threatened to derail an entire scene as it rolled around the uneven floor, but , the acting is as solid as you expect from performers trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). David Duketis gives an outstanding performance as Scapegoat in a role that is both comedic and chilling, while Tiana Catalano has a similar command of the stage as Lisa.
The Wonderful World Of Dissocia is an insightful glimpse into the mental health challenges faced by some people. It is by no means the definitive guide to mental illness, nor should it be viewed as such. The dichotomy presented at the end – to take medication, or not to take medication – is not representative of contemporary thought in mental health recovery. It is possible to live a joyful life with mental health challenges, and the contrast of brilliantly colourful psychosis to the dull grey hospital ward is disingenuous at best.
The Wonderful World of Dissocia, then, should not,, be used as a decision-making guide for people experiencing a mental health challenge. . What it can do is introduce empathy and imagination into the conversation, so that people with mental health challenges can discover their own path towards recovery.
NB: This show includes scenes of implied rape and suicidal imagery. Please consider your own mental health before attending.
Words by Rebecca Bowman