Dir. Umar Ahmed, Tron Theatre, 13-14th October
[Content Warning – suicide]
Walking into the small, intimate performance space tucked away upstairs at the Tron, I am presented with four actors, all men, separated by four distinct panels of light, tossing and turning as if struggling to sleep. It is a reminder of the understated effects of trauma, and it is the image that sticks when I recall the distinct atmosphere of the play, despite the intense physicality of the main performance.
Though told through a series of monologues, the physical aspects woven throughout the play add a richness to the four narrative strands. The actors step in to perform peripheral characters in each other’s stories, to achieve the interactions necessary for each scene. One of the most memorable instances of physical performance was the depiction of a drug-induced euphoria, the effect made possible only by the fantastic physical direction combined with a vivid monologue. The constant movement of the actors results in what seems like a very real exhaustion; although their performance never wavers, the exhaustion seems to reflect the experiences of the men in the monologues.
The storylines of the four nameless characters intersect only through broad common themes, but these blend seamlessly into each other. The experiences depicted are varied – drug abuse and recovery, racial tensions, coming to terms with being gay in a religious community, and growing up during the Troubles. Yet the structure of the monologues, combined with the knowledge that these stories are all verbatim, made it easy to self-reflect while never taking attention away from the narratives onstage.
The end of the performance is abrupt, finishing on notes of suicide and breaking points, and functions as a stark reminder of the realities of mental health issues. As the lights come up, and the audience is once again able to see each other in the small space, I am reminded that any of these stories could well be the story of the person sitting opposite me. In the wake of World Mental Health Day, and with the reminder in the programme that parts of Scotland have the highest levels of male suicide in Britain, One Mississippi is a crucial reminder. It presents an open, honest exploration of masculinity and adverse life experiences in a time and place where this is an absolutely essential discussion to be having.