Locked In (Shock Therapy) – theatre review

Experience of Shock Therapy’s Locked In is an intense one, elevated by its grounding in truth. The Australian premiere is inspired by two stories – Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Baub – which both share about the experiences of living with Locked-In Syndrome. That is a rare neurological disorder that sees a fully aware patient unable to move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body but for the eyes.

To create a piece of physical theatre centred around a character prisoned in his body certainly represents a creative challenge, however under Veronica Neave’s controlled direction, the company succeeds in its focus on movement as the main means of communication. Locked In is, appropriately, a delicate show of small moments and movements as it explores the physicality of stillness.

The challenging role of the unnamed central character is assumed by Sam Foster. He speaks only with his eyes for most of the show, yet still “speaks” volumes in a powerful showing. Testament to the empathy evoked by his performance is the fact that the show’s biggest audience reactions come in response to moments of casual cruelty by his carer (Hayden Jones).

For 75-minutes the audience is treated to innovative theatre. Both the show’s themes and execution take us into the mind of a sufferer of the syndrome. The multidisciplinary production weaves together physical theatre, magic realism and contemporary dance to give us a glimpse into this world and invigorate the heavy work’s pacing. Vibrant video projection takes us from the harsh realities of a hospital room to the heightened experience of the patient’s internal existence. Sound and lighting lure us into the escapism that is the fantasy world in which he can hold his wife’s fingers and enact Mission Impossible-style escapades.

Locked In is a unique, quality theatrical experience, as inspiring as it might be harrowing. In its evocation of the empathy that exists at the core of the shared human condition, it provokes contemplation of how we communicate with each other through the lens of how we treat those in hospice care. Indeed, the exploration of this universal theme from such a particular story is what makes it such a thought-provoking piece.

Locked In is showing at Queensland Theatre until 11th December, 2021.

Meredith Walker
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out 
Blue Curtains Brisbane.

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