Battersea Arts Centre, London – until 27 April 2016
Laura Dean has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She’s afraid she’s going to kill herself in her sleep so spends at least two hours before bed checking her house for anything she could use to self-harm. Scarves and tights are hidden away, as are knives and other sharp objects. She can’t sleep without her checking routine and after months of exhaustion, she’s had enough. An NHS diagnosis comes with a round of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions that help her recover, but introduce several ideas that make Dean question the nature of her self. This Room is a gently communal experience where Dean provides insight into the recovery process. There are plenty of clinical reports, forms and questionnaires but Dean’s individuality is never drowned out by these or by the condition she fights.
The audience is in Dean’s bedroom with her as she works through the most commonly held thoughts by people suffering from OCD. She confesses that she wants to know what’s going on inside her head so she can understand what’s really wrong with her, something she still hasn’t quantified after the pages of documented appointments she reads at lightening speed. The clinical nature of her recitations is a lovely juxtaposition to the soft, confession-like anecdotes from her treatment, most notably the session where her therapist (with the perfect bottom) visits her at home to confront her fears, represented by a serpentine tangle of tights, head on. The whole piece is intimate, quiet and deeply personal.
Dean has a soft strength that’s immensely watchable, whether she’s sitting silently on the edge of the stage clutching her water bottle, or reading her medical notes into a stand mic. The audience immediately sides with her, and dutifully responds to her questions. The empathy is tangible, and a group hug would not be out of place after the curtain call.
This Room avoids sentimentality or an overabundance of awareness-raising. Instead, it’s a personal account of a treatment process and an individual response to it. Will Dean ever really be well? If so, does that mean she’s not really herself anymore? These are big questions that don’t have an immediate answer, but are examined in a wonderful format that is a privilege to witness.
This Room runs through 27 April.
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