Redbrick Arts: The Idiot Colony

As the lights came up in the still, intimate and very darkened Door Studio of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the small audience was confronted with a near empty set and three women, each eager to tell the story they had been waiting to for decades. 

RedCape Theatre Company prides themselves on ‘telling stories that matter, move and entertain’ and that is exactly what they did with The Idiot Colony.  Inspired by real events, the play portrays the harsh and tragic lives of Joy, Mary and Victoria who were locked up as young women in a 1940’s mental asylum to avoid their families any social scandal.  After decades of loneliness, forced medication and disgusting brutality, the truths and turns of these women’s lives are discovered through unusually amusing songs, dances, stunning visuals and sound effects. 

The Idiot Colony is astounding and really thought provoking.  It was fascinating to see the audience’s hesitant reaction after being plunged into 70 minutes of uninterrupted devised performance which reflected the horrifying truths that occurred in our society not even 100 years ago.  The mentally damaged characters seemed so separate from each other, one of them didn’t speak a word in the whole play and they rarely vocally communicated directly, yet they connected so deeply on other levels, lending importance to not only the stylised movement and beautiful visual imagery throughout, but the skill and pure talent of the three actresses who shone and connected with the audience despite the unsettling and dark atmosphere.

‘My name’s Joy, as in happy’ was one of the opening lines that encapsulated the play for me. The irony of this line is stark and the play as a whole was so edgy and inventive that it was strangely enjoyable, entertaining and quite literally left the audience in the dark.  This play will spark conversation, debate and confusion and is definitely one not to miss.

Printed in Redbrick: 23rd October 2009

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