Tomorrow I Was Always A Lion

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Belarus Free Theatre's latest show is an exploration of psychosis and recovery

Based on ‘A Road Back from Schizophrenia’, Arnhild Lauveng’s memoir of her life and treatment as a schizophrenic, this irregularly-titled show marks the first all-British cast production by the prolific Belarus Free Theatre. 

The action primarily takes place in the Norwegian institution where Arnhild was treated, and shines a harsh spotlight on the physical approach taken by the medical team. She is handcuffed, tied to a ‘belt bed’ and assailed by loud noises, treatments that – surprise surprise – has no positive effect.

Adapted and directed by Vladimir Shcherban, the staging showcases BFT’s trademark physical style, but doesn’t always make the impact it should. Arnhil is a sympathetic protagonist, who describes in vivid detail the personalities she hears in her head, including ‘the captain’, who taunts her, starves her and beats her. But the decision to have all five members of the company play her at various points deadens our connection. She becomes frustratingly remote, her treatment invoking pity but not the empathy it should. 

Performers Grace Andrews, Oliver Bennett, Emily Houghton, Samantha Pearl and Alex Robertson combine well together. A stand-out sequence sees Robertson as a triathlete-trained nurse jogging alongside Arnhil as she frantically tries to run away. But as a group they are a little homogenous, lacking the variety that would lend their portrayals of Arnhil greater – and perhaps more fitting - contrast.

This is an admirable attempt to bring Arnhil’s painful and salient journey to a wider audience. And it’s great that every performance is followed by a Q&A (including free Russian pie) discussing the issues raised. But the production’s overall effect is distancing, and had me scrabbling to find a copy of the source material.

BY: THEO BOSANQUET

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