Unpacked, No Obvious Trauma

Review in Issue 18-3 | Autumn 2006

Both of Unpacked's productions – the first, Fourth Violin from the Left, and their latest, No Obvious Trauma – explore and exploit the play between truth and fiction, the blurring of identities, the assuming of roles versus role play and where the line is drawn between paranoia and persecution (am I being paranoid, or is someone persecuting me?). The first production was a dark comedy, referencing the Film Noir genre, but this second show is a more serious affair – and genuinely disturbing, despite (or maybe because of) the replacement of the gloomy torch light, shady characters and shadows of Fourth Violin with clinically clean medics, classical music, white screens, and a brightly lit stage. Set in an institution (nursing home, hospital or asylum?), No Obvious Trauma investigates the interplay between 'real' memory, 'false' memory, recovered memory and imagination. We meet on assortment of human and puppet characters. The central figure around whom the questions revolve is a mute patient whose trauma causes her to freeze in contorted statue-like poses (a phenomenon I have recently read about, which made the idea less bizarre than I might otherwise have found it, but which nonetheless is a fantastic opportunity for physical performance!). As her 'hysteria’ is investigated, with nice little interludes from puppets popping out of desk drawers giving us an alternative reality, we suspect that there is more here than we are being told, and wonder: who is more insane, doctor or patient?

It's early days for this new production and it doesn't yet (for me anyway) have the pull of the previous show. Although initially a nice touch, I found the recurring visual motif of spinning screens became irksome, and the male performers (the doctors) seemed a little unsure of whether to play this in the tone of a regular psychological thriller or as a stylised melodrama. But the central female character is played beautifully, and I like the use of the puppets – an ironic play on the role of puppetry within therapy.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-3
p. 25