History shows that right up to the 20th century, women were ‘sectioned’ on all sorts of non-medical pretexts. However, it’s fair to say that the patriarchal status quo that requisitioned psychiatric hospitals as their own private ‘penitentiaries’ had money and power to do so… Written and performed by Shea Donovan, By the Light of the Moon focuses on Lila, a young woman who in 1928, finds herself sent to an asylum.
Core to this monologue is Lila’s status as an ‘unreliable narrator’ – not that she lies about anything. It’s just that it’s very obvious from her description of events and her surroundings that she doesn’t fully comprehend the position she’s in.
The poetry of Edward Lear features prominently in the show, which is quoted by Lila, its ‘nonsensical’ nature an oblique refraction of her troubled mind. The poems are also reminiscent of ‘nursery rhymes’, which apart from the alluding to the innate ‘innocence’ of Lila, often have a darker subtext.
One thing that is noticeable by what’s said (or rather by what’s not) is the absence of love within Lila’s family. The only people who feature prominently in Lila’s affections are “Nanna” (the only person Lila writes lettters to) and “Gertrude”, a fellow ‘patient’. Reading in between the lines, Gertrude is in full possession of her faculties, and exhibits emotions and behaviour that one would expect in such dire circumstances. Gertrude is also Lila’s ‘rock’, so when we hear of her disappearence, Lila exhibits erratic behaviour…
This ‘irritability’ coincides with Lila’s ‘awakening’ with regards her perception of time – a clarity that is met with disbelief. As for the source of Lila’s woes, Jonathan “A friend of daddy’s” is to blame. But the ‘disconnect’ in Lila’s mind between him and her predicament only goes to show how naive she is in regards to ‘relations’ and predatory behaviour…
By the Light of the Moon streams on https://www.onlinefringefestival.com/
until 3rd May.
Donations are encouraged for all the shows to help fund the Festival and all of the participating artists. OFF only keeps 10% of any funds raised and the remaining 90% are split between the artists.
© Michael Davis 2020
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