THE WAR INSIDE at The Albany
Humour can be a devastatingly effect tool when examining human anguish. And there are few better examples of this truth than Camille Dawson’s immersive new play The War Inside about the weird world of auto-immune disease.
Dawson and her set designer Cristina Ottonello transformed the Albany’s theatre space into the insides of a human being, complete with major organs such as heart, brain, liver and – most spectacular of all – colon.
The audience, who are asked to don tabards and hairnets to represent white blood cells, are then led by Dawson through a living demonstration of a disease that is, in effect, the body trying to destroy itself from within.
Dawson, who has the condition herself, has created a work that is both darkly funny and heartbreakingly sad as she reveals the fear and bewilderment of the sufferer struggling to understand why their innards are self-destructing.
She also stars in the show, playing a variety of roles including the leader of the white blood cell army whose job it is to destroy incomers. Brilliantly, she takes on the persona of a Deep South demagogue who you just know would believe QAnon nonsense and blindly support Trump.
Dawson is ably abetted by Sophie Taylor as her deputy who is, in effect, conned into facilitating the self-destruction of the body. It’s a perfectly judged manifestation of what it is to be exploited.
The pair’s live performance is cleverly enhanced with filmed scenes featuring a teenage girl (Georgia Polly-Taylor) whose internal plumbing is being ravaged the disease. The clips neatly reinforce the feelings of confusion and fear of sufferers but also, crucially, the sense of shame born of the hyper-sensitivity that is a rite of passage of adolescence.
I can’t praise this production too highly. I live with someone who has battled an alarming auto-immune condition for many years and I identified totally with Dawson’s marvellous mix of tears and laughter, darkness and light. And just as with my wife, I am in awe of her refusal to become a victim.