The Patient Gloria ★★★★☆ / Until the Flood ★★★★☆
I had thought The Patient Gloria would be in my first round-up of shows at the Traverse Theatre – but Gina Moxley’s intricate, impish work refused to be squeezed in. Contained. Explained away. Which is apt, frankly.
In 1956, a 30-year-old American divorcee named Gloria agreed to take part in three different psychotherapy sessions, recorded for training tools. In fact, the films were – disgracefully – widely broadcast and can today still be seen on YouTube. The Patient Gloria re-enacts these, with playwright and performer Moxley playing each of male therapists Gloria spoke to about her high sex drive, her romantic relationships, and her guilty fears these made her a bad mother.
Moxley shows us the different prosthetic penises she’s using at “get into character”. Dr Rodgers gets a soft thing made of stuffed tights; he turns out to be paternalistic, albeit with raging Freudian overtones. The second has a large rubbery phallus, and Dr Perls is confrontational and shockingly patronising. The last... well, it wouldn’t do to give too much about this mechanised member away, but it hilariously, erm, pricks the pomposity of Dr Ellis, who seems to think getting patients to sleep with him is a better cure than actually listening to them.
More good news is that Dael Orlandersmith has come to Edinburgh with her play Until the Flood. She is a consummate performer, inhabiting each part as easily as she shrugs on and off a jumper or hoodie. Accents and attitudes, gestures and intonations all change in an instant under Neel Keller’s direction. Orlandersmith has marshalled her material compellingly too, teasing out a satisfying narrative arc or miniature journey for each person. Until the Flood is never less than absorbing – and frequently illuminating.
Presenting, without judgement, a panoply of conflicting thoughts on the shooting, and the wider issues of race, class, opportunity and oppression in America, is an act of necessary generosity. While some opinions will be abhorrent to British theatre-goers, recent years have surely been a reminder that we maybe need to keep our ears open to such things. And – especially for the almost entirely white Edinburgh audience – the invitation to walk in the shoes of an oppressed minority, to see through their eyes the prejudice that underpins so many interactions, from the unconscious bias to out-and-out racism, feels like an important act of empathy – even if we’d like to believe things aren’t so bad here.
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