Review: Ghost Town looks in to the eyes of our demons

Jill McAusland as Megan in Ghost Town. Photographs: Louise Buckby for Karl Andre Photography
14 Feb 2014 @ 8.51 pm
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Jill McAusland as Megan in Ghost Town. Photographs:  Louise Buckby for Karl Andre Photography
Jill McAusland as Megan in Ghost Town. Photographs: Louise Buckby for Karl Andre Photography

Review: Ghost Town by Pilot Theatre
Venue: York Theatre Royal Studio, February 13

OCD is not just making sure your front door is locked hundreds of times. It can be also self-delusion, intrusive thoughts, isolation, a deep lack of trust towards our very self.

Ghost Town, a play by Jessica Fisher produced by Pilot Theatre, drags us into the nightmare of a mind affected by OCD.

Joe (Damson Idris) is trapped in a place which incorporates two very different experiences: a happy time of bright light and joyful sounds, a summer trip with his best friend Megan (Jill McAusland).

And a cold vortex of disconnected memories mixed with the terror of hurting someone he loves.

Joe runs away from home in a freezing winter day to go back to that seaside in which he can still preserve lovely memories of his life before OCD. But past and present are deeply interwoven.

Director Katie Posner and playwright Jessica Fisher have managed to reproduce the train of thoughts caused by a mental illness such as OCD in Joe.

They have even assigned a physical presence to it, into the catlike figure of Kiera (Sheila Atim).

She pushes the boundaries of Joe’s mind, insinuating that if a girl is bleeding on the floor during the epidemic violence of riots, and Joe has a piece of broken glass in his hands, there is just one conclusion: he must be the murderer of an innocent girl.

Hence, he is a bad person, capable of killing, and ready to do it again, any time and against anyone. Joe has no choice but withdrawing form his family and friends, in an isolation that makes him increasingly scared.

Damson Idris (Joe) and Sheila Atim (Keira)
Damson Idris (Joe) and Sheila Atim (Keira)

In moments of deep crisis, Keira uses her ancestral powers to soothe Joe through a repetitive ritual of cleaning hands and singing hypnotic notes. A comforting routine that keeps the victim trapped in his condition.

But with each repetition, the magic power starts to vanish. Joe reaches the point in which he has to look straight into the eyes of his demons, and he manages to do so thanks to Megan.

A true friend that, in spite of her own pain, is able to open Joe’s eyes towards his own innocence and kill once for all Kiera’s mesmerising trap.

The play is short, straight to the point, and makes wise use of music, lights, and the talent of three brilliant young actors.

A fragmented plot portrays the actual confusion induced by OCD. Jessica Fisher is familiar with the condition, and started writing this play while being treated.

Gaining control over her illness and developing enough distance from it has allowed her to translate OCD into theatre with great awareness and deep honesty.

A play to watch in order to understand not just OCD as an illness, but also the reality of young people dealing with pain and healing each other’s wounds through friendship.