Head/Case

Ron Hutchinson
A Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, production
Soho Theatre
(2005)

Head/Case is a most unusual and worthwhile play, looking into the effects of injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain and more subtly and obliquely thereby anatomising the human creature.

On a different level, it also touches on a favourite subject of the playwright, the relationship between England and Ireland and their peoples.

It is distinguished by fine performances, especially from Northern Irish actress Claire Cogan as Tracy. She has been "stopped by a brick" during a riot and spews out words thirteen to the dozen in an effort to regain her identity.

In contrast to her fire, there is the English Ice Maiden Julia, played by Sarah Cattle. She is practically unable to talk and moves like a sleepwalking robot. At this point, except when we hear her inner thoughts, she cannot complete a sentence following a car accident and the injuries caused by her failure to wear a seatbelt.

The relationship between the two is pained but often funny and, in strangely insidious ways, these two inadequates act as therapists to each other.

There is also a third "character" played by Jonjo O'Neill who initially appears to be Tracy's fiancé but is in fact an imaginary friend or, to be more exact, enemy. Whenever this leather-jacketed inner demon starts ever so sweetly singing, Tracy becomes suicidal. A measure of the success of her therapy is her final ability to close the door behind him.

Ron Hutchinson's stark imagery, reflected in a bare set, is given real life by Caroline Hunt's direction with dissonant music, literally explosive moments and a very clever duplication sequence involving Tracy and the demon.

Head/Case does not make for easy viewing but gives a real insight into the unbelievably difficult lives led by people who suffer from these kinds of injuries.

They are dislocated not only from normal lives and their history but also from large parts of their own brains. If his conclusions are right though, given time and effort on their own parts and those of their helpers, these sufferers will win small victories and hearteningly, move that much closer to normality.

Philip Fisher