Give Me Your Love explores the therapeutic potential of MDMA. We are (partially) introduced to Zach, a veteran of the Iraq war suffering from such severe post-traumatic stress that he is unable to leave his dilapidated cardboard box. Ieuan, Zach’s friend and fellow vet, takes matters into his own hands, smuggling him an ecstasy pill and coaxing him into exploring his wartime experience. The play marks the second instalment of Ridiculusmus’ trilogy which investigates innovative approaches to mental health.
In some respects, the play sets up a straw man, presuming a naivety to its characters that borders on patronising. Despite having been to war, Zach’s world views remain hopelessly parochial. He learns about ecstasy trials on TV, ‘if it’s on TV it must be true’ he definitively argues. His wife is even worse, neurotic and zealously anti-drugs despite the fact that she was ‘off her face on acid’ the day they met. We’re invited to feel a smug distance from the characters’ situation and the issue at hand; woefully misinformed, their anxieties seem the stuff of parody.
That said, the play makes some interesting stylistic gambits. Jacob Williams’ set design is wonderful, powerfully evoking a world that has been stripped bare of comfort or human warmth. Throughout the show’s duration, we never see a human face. Zach’s friends and family are banished offstage, surfacing only as disembodied voices. Zach himself remains shielded within the inner curtain of his cardboard box. We’re offered a very palpable experience of being ‘locked out’, the frustration of trying to engage and being deprived a connection.
This focus on the sheer exasperation and loneliness of dealing with PTSD seems important. Yet it also presents dramatic problems; how to make the banality of psychosis engaging? The story never quite navigates out of this quandary and Zach’s persistent refusal to connect makes for a draining experience. There’s an endless loop of false-starts. Zach seems like he’s ready to talk, then doesn’t. Ieuan seems to have made a breakthrough, but hasn’t. While the run-time is brief, the play feels much longer.
Much of the action centres around the painstaking task of getting Zach to articulate his trauma. At times, he seems positively coy about this, making up harrowing experiences then revealing that he was only joking. There’s an element of bathos to Zach’s final disclosure; his symptoms are so acute yet the source of his trauma is perplexingly vague (or “subtle” as he defines it). Rather than exploring this, the story moves brusquely on Zach remains as remote as ever.
This show is ostensibly underscoring the value of connecting, the importance of engaging with oneself, with others. It seems a shame, therefore, that the characters are so crudely rendered. 2.5/5
Review written by Sean Gilbert.
Give Me Your Love is currently showing at the Battersea Arts Centre until Saturday 30th January. For more information on the production, visit here…