Avicide, Edinburgh Fringe, Frankie Jolly, Georgia Green, Greg Birks, Hallucination, Harrison Osterfield, Insanity, Jolly Green Moment Theatre Company, Lauren O'Leary, Marcus Tischauser, Mental Illness, Nancy Ofori, Psychosis, Schizophrenia, SpaceTriplex, Theatre Review
Georgia Green’s “Avicide,” the debut production from Jolly Green Moment Theatre, is currently playing at the Spaces Triplex, a new venue for 2015 from Edinburgh’s inexhaustible supply of meeting rooms and cellars. The Surgeons Hall is just around the corner and the shows at Spaces Triplex have conceivably spilled over from here. “Avicide” is the sort of play that you would readily encounter in the Surgeons Hall: a nimble little student drama, which displays scenes of clever and quirky writing. It arrives from London and Goldsmith University.
It initially felt as if “Avicide” had chosen to cross some especially rugged or forbidding terrain, but when I looked back over this play I was surprised to realise that it had, in fact, not set a foot wrong. Roger (Greg Birks) is a South Londoner of indeterminate age, who is suffering from an unspecified mental illness. The weight of probability lies on the side of his two friends or flatmates, Dave (Marcus Tischauser) and Paradise (Nancy Ofori), being hallucinations, since they appear to reside in his living-room cupboards. A carer (Lauren O’Leary), who does not have quite the same mysterious status as Roger’s other friends, periodically shows up with hot meals. After she has left, Rogers’ friends invade to stalk around the stage again.
It might be off-putting to spend forty minutes with such an irreversibly tragic character as Roger, but “Avicide” is a relaxed play, with a freshness to it which repels many of the encircling clichés of madness. The humour is always mirthless, so we are never allowed to grow comfortable in Roger’s company, but the melodrama is never shrill or even particularly assertive. Roger’s hallucinations are sometimes bossy, but they are often just chatty, rather in the manner of the disembodied voices from Evelyn Waugh’s 1957 memoir of mental illness, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. If there is any sense to these hallucinations at all, it might become intelligible in their mildly parental attributes. Dave is friendly but authoritative; Paradise is glamorous and motherly. Roger grows distressed when he is told about them having sex, and we can perhaps here discern Freud’s usual ghostwriting in the script.
If “Avicide” is a play which is characterised by a distinct absence of miscalculations, Greg Birks is especially unerring. He exhibits the awkward plainness and flustered ditheryness of the psychotic, but he can ramp up the drama when necessary. An attempt to kiss his carer signifies that he is capable of danger. It is clear that he is not being cared for by nurses but by a bureaucracy, and an ominous line about his behaviour not being properly “reported” indicates that unblemished paperwork is their defining motivation.
I don’t know if this is what mental illness really looks like, but I was left with the impression that it might be. Roger is realistically incomprehensible; the kind of person who is the unwanted ornament of every community, who you are always mindful to keep a judicious distance from when you see them gibbering away to themselves at the bus stop. His tragedy does not come at the end of this play; it is palpable at any given moment in his story.