The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson
I’ve started buying as many plays as I can for my student’s so that my incoming Year 12’s (still 12 months away for me yet) have a good selection of material for use as a possible Individual Project (Performance) script. I saw a HSC candidate perform a piece she called “Dissocia” and at the time the STC were showing The Wonderful World of Dissocia as part of their then current season. I found Neilson’s collection of plays which also includes Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness which the STC has also produced as part of their subscription season in recent years. Whilst the piece I saw didn’t actually come from this play, it still has some other uses in the classroom.
Dissocia is an imaginary world that Lisa enters to find her lost “hour.” Dissocia turns about to be what was created by Lisa in that lost hour. Act One reminds you of something out of the Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland with crazy characters, sets and dialogue that is pun-filled and hilarious. This contrasts starkly, and quite deliberately as Neilson says in his notes, with that of Act Two in which Lisa is seen in a psychiatric facility. The set is stark, the acting realistic and minimalist in some ways. There is a simplicity to Act Two which really brings the message home after the craziness of Act One which at some points were quite irritating.
This is a play that examines the internal workings of a mind with a mental illness and contrasts that with the reality of psychiatric facilities for the patient and their loved ones. I saw something similar to Act Two earlier this year when I watched Andrew Upton’s adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face at the STC.
There is some brilliant character work that student’s could improvise with and the set and costume would also be interesting to play around with in class. This edition also has Neilson’s directorial concept for each Act which would help student’s to understand how they should be written. I would really like to see this text featured as one of the texts in the Prescribed Texts list for the Individual Project. I know it has only recently been on stage here but maybe that would be to the student’s advantage because it would be more immediate and resources would be easily accessible and available. Also, this is such a prevalent issue for both young and old alike. It would be interesting to see how this concept is addressed by student’s.