A harrowing journey into an artist's experience of a rare brain infection
There’s a whole messy, marvellous world at the points where plays, immersive theatre and art installations come together. Battersea Arts Centre is particularly good at providing a home for these hard-to-classify experiences – and ‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew’ is a quietly devastating example of uncategorisable art at its best.
Essentially, it’s artist Shannon Yee’s attempt to make sense of her experience of a rare brain infection by replicating it, as closely as possible. You’re invited to lie on a starched hospital bed, prickling with discomfort as binaural sound crackles through a headphone set.
A gentle introduction takes you through Shannon’s shopping list as she hurries through a busy street. But these everyday intimacies are quickly replaced by invitations to gatecrash some of the bleakest, most frightening moments of her life. It’s a hypochondriac’s nightmare, filling your head with the bustling sonic universe of intensive care. Paul Stapleton’s powerful sound design sets sparks through your ears as Shannon’s brain fills with abscesses. And the physical pain of endless medical interventions is compounded by the emotional agony of feeling adrift in a hospital that, as well as removing her infection, takes away her independence and ability to express herself.
There are moments of humour, like Shannon’s ecstatic insistence that she’s going to Mexico, seconds after major brain surgery. Her relationship with her caring partner Gráinne is presented with refreshing wit and warmth. But what comes across loudest of all is a call for compassion for people who seem unreachable – and you don’t have to be a hypochondriac to empathise.