The Live Theatre production of Clear White Light, written by Paul Sirrett and directed by Joe Douglas, is ultimately an uplifting look at the intricacies of mental health care and the ability to overcome personal struggles. The play centres around student nurse Ally (Elizabeth Carter) as she takes on her first night at an all-male mental health institution in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Ally and many other characters, significantly her mentor Rod (Joe Caffrey), attempt to appeal to a local audience with their strong Geordie accents and references to the city of Newcastle. Ally frequently increases this personal inclusion of the audience by personally addressing us during her monologues. This initially serves to simply draw in the audience, but we later feel as though we are intimately privy to her journey through mental health issues.
"This initially unidentified woman lends a gothic and eerie presence to the play, with her constant silent presence and frequent emotional outbursts."
In a seemingly strange veer away from Ally’s story, the play is laced with musical numbers by local Tyneside band Lindisfarne and performed by a mysterious Stevie Nicks-esque woman (Charlie Hardwick). This initially unidentified woman lends a gothic and eerie presence to the play, with her constant silent presence and frequent emotional outbursts. Whilst this is explained through a twist in the final scene, it seems disjointed and is distracting from the overall message of the play. It seems that the director has included scenes purely for shock-value and a strained need to fit the songs into the play. One specific scene which seemed over the top included bloody nails scratching at both the doors of the physical lift and metaphorically of the minds of the other characters. The innate gothic horror of this scene was mismatched and seemed comical, when trying to pack an emotional punch in the audience. This scene was disappointing in a play which was otherwise a sympathetic depiction of important issues such as self-harm, suicide and trauma.
"The simple message that mental health can affect anyone at any time is important in today’s climate."
Overall, the simple message that mental health can affect any one at any time is important in today’s climate. The play reinforced kindness and respect towards one another, without judgement and emphasising the importance of leading each other towards the clear white light of hope.
Kate Dunkerton & Sally Grey