wed 18/05/2022

The Patient Gloria, Brighton Festival review - an electric exploration of the control and manipulation of women | reviews, news & interviews

The Patient Gloria, Brighton Festival review - an electric exploration of the control and manipulation of women

The Patient Gloria, Brighton Festival review - an electric exploration of the control and manipulation of women

Laying bare the authority and entitlement of misogyny

Liv O'Donoghue as Gloria in Gina Moxley's play

The psychology of female desire in 1960s California, was a field awash with voyeurism and exploitation. This brilliant play uncovers not only the bizarre story of Gloria Szymanski, but catholic hypocrisy and everyday sexism too, with a nod to third wave feminism.

The plot is based on the "Gloria Tapes" – three video therapy sessions between leading psychologists and a 30-year-old divorcee who spoke openly about her enjoyment of sex. It was filmed with the purpose of demonstrating different therapeutic approaches as an educational tool, but was later released, without Gloria’s consent, on the television.

But The Patient Gloria is much more than a straightforward re-telling of an intriguing series of events. It interweaves the personal tales of the actors, particularly the excellent Gina Moxley, who wrote the play. This fluidity of character and scene blurs the boundaries between actuality and a constructed set-up, cleverly paralleling Gloria's situation. Seeing a female play the roles of the male psychologists Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls and Albert Ellis creates a psychologically safe space that cushions the appalling reality not only of what happened to Gloria, but others who fell prey to the unforgiveable behaviour of men in a similar position of power. Liv O’Donoghue perfectly captures the spirit of rebellious questioner, and Jane Deasy is gloriously wry, sitting casually in the background directing, advising, and occasionally singing accompaniments such as “You made my shit list” and “Dick on the bus”.

The audience is gripped from the onset – we laugh at Moxley’s outlandish acting style, wince at the abject horror of every woman's story and feel hope that things can be different in the future. I haven’t seen a theatre show that kept me so engaged from start to finish in a long time.

The script is tangy, whip-sharp and pacey whilst being able to hold and validate some big topics with authority and generosity. Lines like “the scabby fruits of sin, like an apple trying to dangle” make me want to read the words all over again and I will hold close the powerful imagery of the final scene.

I haven’t seen a theatre show that kept me so engaged from start to finish in a long time

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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