Moment(o)s of Leaving @ Whitchurch Hospital
Moment(o)s of Leaving
Friday 11th March 2016
This review comes from a very personal place. My own brother, who has struggled so much the past few months with intense Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, tried to kill himself and this resulted in a night at Whitchurch Hospital. He is recuperating now, but it's never easy and the road to recovery is long and bumpy...
So Cardiff bids farewell to Whitchurch Hospital, the closure of which concludes an elongated and tempestuous relationship with mental health (patients are from next month to go to Llandough). I feel people don't talk much of the subject and it often feels taboo. With much controversy triggered in political cutbacks, it seems mental health in Wales is continuing to fall lower and lower, only bureaucratic precedents remain, so people can slip through the net.
Moment(o)s of Leaving happened to be at the right place and the right time. With the closing, a performance felt like a surprise, but a good one. We all eagerly waited in the main reception and then were sent outside to face the Matron. Played by Sioned Jones, she was our curt, often insightful and characterful guide for the night. It felt like a very honest portrayal, her persona and jet black dress adding to the vintage quality of the work.
With the hospital open for 108 years, there are many points of reference that could be used. Found items left in disused wards are integral to the show (an Australian letter addressed to Llanishen, red paper planes, slippers), these in one way being the mementoes of the title. I was left unsure if letters and documents were from real sources or fabricated, thought their authenticity leaves me assuming its the former. The real testimonials of nurses is telling in their worry of moving to a new hospital and what these changes will bring.
We sadly didn't get to go down any of the hospital's infamous long corridors. Despite this, there any many highlights that can be plucked out from the show: In one unbearable moment (it was very hard not to break down) a dancer pours pills on the floor, huddles into the foetal position and another dancer draws chalk around him, like a sort of murder scene. These dancers/actors are first spotted in a window as we crept around the gardens, as soundscapes wafted from each band stand. To my surprise, patients are still in the hospital and they feel a long way away from us.
Another highlight was the Matron turing into the voice of the building, moaning and filled with insight. This voice that speaks to us knows of its demise, but is still happy to account some facts about the place (acres, miles etc). A garden like installation in a small room is a delight and therapy even for us as the audience.
A sublime dance, delivered by a character who could have been at the hospital is haunting, in the next room a doctor who seem mixed in his movements of a composed nature and an irrationality is a perplexing parallel. An actress putting on six coats and frantically pacing around us, then leading to a clear hoard of clothes and an anxious array of spasms , was another heavy going moment. Even Matron teaching us all how to make a hospital bed made for an absorbing time.
The piece makes you contemplate the countless patients who made it though those doors, not all of them making it, but I'm sure many a success story is now forgotten in the midst of time. More talk of the hospital's time during WW1 would be of interest, as at times it was only every brushed upon.
I can honestly say, that this was one of the most important pieces of theatre that I have ever seen in my lifetime.
We can't deny its impact on Cardiff.
Rating: 5 stars
Lecture: The History of Whitchurch Hospital by Ian Beech at RCN Wales, Cardiff on Wednesday 30th March 2016. Free tickets on Eventbrite.
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@molcdf @whitchurchhosp #momentosofleaving
Weeping Tudor Productions shall stage Socrate by Erik Satie in Cardiff 2016, part of Satiefest. Dates TBC.
If you would like to help bring Erik Satie's Uspud to the Edinburgh Fringe this August, you can check out Weeping Tudor Productions' Kickstarter campaign.
Image by Mement(o)s of Leaving Facebook