About Lullabies for the Lost

Sunday 12th January 2020

Liam Mulvey, Duncan Wilkins, Rosalind Blessed and Helen Bang in Lullabies for the Lost. Photo: Adam Trigg
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Last week, I was at the Old Red Lion theatre to see Rosalind Blessed’s Lullabies for the Lost, which runs in rep with her other short play, The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People. Lullabies for the Lost gives an overview of some of the most excruciating and disturbing mental problems that afflict people in society today. A cast of eight, led by Blessed herself, take turns to deliver monologues about agoraphobia, self-esteem issues, failures of masculinity, eating disorders and other conditions that induce acute anxiety, debilitating depression and suicidal thoughts. What comes across powerfully is the loneliness and helplessness that such feelings create in the individual, as well as the grossness of, for example, the experience of bulimia. But although much of the content is extremely powerful and distressing, most of the monologues lack a distinctive subjective voice and the effect is more like listening to an informative textbook rather than an imaginative piece of playwriting. The structure is an absurdist and symbolic abstract no place, which seems out of keeping with the contemporary nature of the content. But although I found that the programmatic style of the writing sapped some of my sympathy for the characters, I couldn’t help but be impressed by most of the acting. In particular, Blessed strongly conveys the paralyzing self-hatred of a bulimic woman and Duncan Wilkins is gripping as the cynical and sarcastic anorexic whose account of the way institutions corrode your sense of self is deeply touching. Well directed by Zoe Ford Burnett, the production includes a video sequence in which Blessed’s mother, Hildegard Neil, offers some sound therapeutic advice, and the one example of a curative intervention involves getting a dog, maybe one of the best remedies in the world.

© Aleks Sierz

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