A young woman wakes up in a wheelchair, in the centre of the common room of Illyria Psychiatric Hospital. She wakes from dreams of drowning. She wakes up as a man.
For 5 nights in September 2010, the empty swimming pool of Mt Gravatt Griffith Campus (which was scheduled for demolition), was host to Black Fox Theatre’s debut show, Or What You Will. It was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, in which all but three of the characters were patients in a mental institution.
Produced in partnership with Griffith University’s Applied Theatre Department, the script shuffled scenes, lines and characters; occasionally replacing entire monologues with medical jargon (researched for accuracy with the assistance of the Griffith School of Psychology). But the most important change the Black Fox took place before the play began:
Sebastian of Messaline was dead to begin with.
The climax of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity comedy involves the reunion of two twins who were separated by a shipwreck. In Or What You Will, the Viola and her brother are involved in a car wreck that kills him and nearly drowns her. The physical trauma of the crash, shock, and the loss of her only living relative puts her in a dissociative state, and she begins to develop alternate personalities.
These subconscious attempts to cope with loss, spurred by her interactions with staff and fellow patients begin to spin the everyday workings of the hospital out of control, exposing abuse and corruption, and changing the lives of everyone she meets.
On closing night, the Black Fox Himself made his first appearance to introduce the show. It went like sort of like this.
We’ll be posting some more stills from the show and some character profiles this week. Keep an eye out.
Photography by Bon Productions
Black Fox Theatre. Always worth checking out.
I am in no way biased.