‘Locked In’ was an awakening.
A man adorned in a hospital gown lies in bed wide awake but motionless. I think to myself, take another sip of wine…this feels like it’s going to be a confronting experience. It was. But there is so much honesty in this work. And isn’t that the point of theatre? It provokes curiosity and encourages empathy in a way that is utterly entertaining. Shock Therapy Productions certainly live up to their name with this show.
‘Locked In’ came about when company founder Hayden Jones read the book ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The show follows the experience of a man (played by Jones) who is a prisoner in his own body, suffering from locked-in syndrome. The show is Brechtian in nature and is predominantly expressed through movement and the clever use of multimedia.
The scenes all take place in a humble hospital room. Queensland Theatre’s Diane Cilento Studio was a perfect fit for this intimate story. It made this fly on the wall experience feel excruciatingly close.
Early in the story, we meet the man’s wife (played by Hsin-Ju Ely) and it’s clear that this is the first time she is seeing her love physically disabled. The scene was expressed beautifully through gestures.
The antagonist in this story is the male nurse, played exquisitely by co-founder/actor Sam Foster. A poignant scene to note was when he was bathing the debilitated patient while singing along to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ It was both funny and disturbing to watch this man’s total disregard for the human life in his care. Similar to one suffering from the locked-in syndrome, it was evident that our protagonist was fully lucid during this experience, albeit without the power of movement or speech to exercise his needs and free will.
The devices used to tell the story felt fresh. Nothing was superfluous or overindulged, which can be an easy trap to fall into when dealing with a complex, sensitive matter. Huge kudos must be given to director Veronica Neave for an extraordinary job guiding these three talented artists. The performances were present and alive, and the narrative was efficiently and clearly told.
There was some relief provided through dream sequences where our protagonist escaped from the confines of his body and into his imagination. This was well supported by the tech production team of Guy Webster, Nathan Sibthorpe and Geoff Squires.
After witnessing this show, one was left with a feeling of shock and a profound responsibility to utilise our power to support and hear those less able.
‘Locked In’ is a moving, vital piece of theatre that’s worthy of being seen and heard. Shock Therapy Productions are creating a great reputation here in Queensland. Make sure to grab a ticket to see one of their shows in the future.
’Locked In’ performed until Saturday, 11 December 2021 at Queensland Theatre (Diane Cilento Studio). For more information visit Shock Therapy Production’s website.
Photography by David Carberry .