Stuck Like Me
The temptation when making a short play is to rush and stuff in as much as possible before time runs out. Stuck Like Me from PigWig Productions is, therefore, a bit of a rarity: a gentle, understated examination of a crippling mental health issue.
Jenna (Eliza Williams) suffers from agoraphobia, believes her environment to be unsafe and consequently dreads leaving the house. When lockdown is announced, she realises, with bleak humour, her behaviour has been normalised and everyone else is in the same position.
One of the challenges arising from writing about mental disorders is that, being irrational, they are very hard to explain objectively. Jen Wooster’s script tackles this situation directly with Jenna describing how well-meaning friends will try to reason with her or mitigate the impact of her phobia only to fail because it is simply irrational. Rather than try and describe the mental effects of the phobia, Wooster concentrates on the crippling physical aspects: the crushing impact of an adrenaline rush paralysing the body.
Director Deirdre Daly embraces the opportunities available from online theatre to structure the play around short scenes that would have been impossible on stage. Watching Jenna undertake time-consuming tasks—hand washing, choosing clothes—is like viewing a tiger pacing the cage. It builds tension towards an inevitable meltdown yet when it comes it is sad rather than dramatic—a wordless scene of an overwhelmed Jenna in tears.
Eliza Williams makes Jenna a self-aware rather than self-pitying character. She draws out a resigned sense of humour noting how Jenna’s condition gives the opportunity to manipulate the attention she receives. Williams brings, however, a tremendous sense of longing—a wish to be free of her burden and, well, just be normal.
Stuck Like Me does not offer any easy solutions but gives the chance to meet an appealing character and perhaps understand a challenging condition more clearly.
Reviewer: David Cunningham