Lyceum: Takin’ over the Asylum (4.5* / 3*)

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Ian’s 4.5* Review:

I was really looking forward to seeing this play, as it sort of closes a circle for me.  A few years back I saw a young actor called David Tennant in a play at the Lyceum called Look Back in Anger.  He was utterly mesmerising, and not long after we started seeing him in some great TV pieces – the first was Cassanova.  Later, we looked for other stuff he had been in, and got a DVD of Takin’ Over the Asylum.  We loved it.  Now we get to see it in play form at the Lyceum.  A personal, and very obscure, circle.

It’s a few years since we watched the DVD, but a two-hour play is always going to be a little shallow compared with a 6 hour series, and the first half in particular felt a little quick.  Quite a few plot threads necessarily get lost.  After the first few minutes though, I was able to accept the different performances and settle into the performances.

I really, really enjoyed it.  There was laugh-out-loud comedy, heart-wrenching pathos and everything in between.  Fraser had real style, and Aileen’s subtle transformation is beautifully understated.  The script somehow manages to cover all the main themes from the TV version, and I really felt the highs and lows.

Ruth’s 3* Review:

We went to see Takin over the asylum which is a play about hospital radio set in a psychiatric hospital. Theoretically I’m well on board with the concept of using meaningful activities to improve mental health (part of my day job) and that’s all in there. But. I didn’t gel with it.

I’m not sure I can blame the play, it was nice enough and Ian enjoyed it. But having seen the original 1994 TV drama starring David Tennant this just wasn’t as good. The character exposition seemed forced and obvious which I think is natural when you squeeze six hours down into two. But for me it lost some of the compassion of the original. You should all get the DVD.

Plus, with the instant feedback of the audience, I was never quite sure whether people were laughing ‘at’ or ‘with’ the characters and the stigmatising language they used, for example “we are loonies and we are proud” being a key repeating sentiment.

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