Even with what we now know about neurological conditons such as M.E., there is little that modern medicine can do to alleviate the debilitating symptoms throughout a person’s life. Add the lack of understanding of the widespread symptoms by the public at large (and the erroneous assumption the problems are psychosomatic), a person diagnosed with a neurological disorder spends the rest of their lives figuratively ‘skating uphill’.
Written by Lorna Wells and directed by Aisling Gallagher, Illusions of Liberty focuses on Liberty Jones (Corinne Walker) – a young cellist who has just had test results from doctors regarding her general state of ‘lethargy’. Liberty’s boyfriend Preston, plus her mother Alberta, are all too aware of what’s been happening. But the confirmation that Liberty has Conn’s Syndrome is as much as as ‘gut-punch’ as it is a ‘relief’. Finally, she has confirmation that her physiological symptoms aren’t psychosomatic. The flip side is that there is no known cure or even a palliative remedy.
Walker plays all the roles with aplomb, at ease with portraying Liberty and her social circle, as well as the medical fraternity. From the writing side of things, it’s interesting that Liberty (who is British) has been given an American mother and grandmother, breaking away from the standard backgrounds given to black characters in British narratives. Time is devoted to Alberta’s backstory and integral to explaining why her relationship with her daughter is the way that it is. But with both parties ‘sparing’ each other the whole truth to ‘protect’ them, they only exacerbate their mutual frustration.
Accompanying Walker on stage is the cellist Meera Priyanka Raja, whose playing reminds the audience of what Liberty will be losing in the future. Asides from not being able to what she’s trained for, her passion, Liberty will lose her ‘voice’ – the musical/non-verbal means of expressing her innermost self.
The one thing the play gets across is how psychologically and physically ‘exhausting’ the debilitating conditions are for the sufferers and their loved ones. But as the play shows, a frank dialogue goes a long way to helping each other’s frustration, wanting the best for all.
© Michael Davis 2021
Illusions of Liberty can be watched online until 17th February. Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.illusionsofliberty.co.uk/
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