Black laughs guaranteed in dark comedy of mental disorder


Thursday 15 May 2014

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A new adaptation of a darkly comic play about psychological dysfunction will be on show in Coventry and Leamington in the next week.

Black Laugh Theatre Company, formed by students from Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, are presenting their version of Scottish playwright and director Anthony Neilson’s critically acclaimed The Wonderful World of Dissocia

With a mutual interest in comic farce and physically expressive performance, theatre students Jessica Rowe, Shawny Osgerby and Daniel Milwain formed Black Laugh in the build up to this year’s Degree Show. Now up and running, Coventry University’s annual celebration of emerging creative talent affords students the opportunity to show off their work to friends, families and public audiences at venues across the city and beyond over the next two months.

Black Laugh’s first production sees them tackle Neilson’s surreal but serious exploration of mental health issues. Its troubled central character, Lisa, is a young woman with a debilitating dissociative disorder. Suffering from lapses in memory and experiencing an identity crisis, her story unfolds in two acts that starkly contrast Lisa’s internal fantasy with her external reality.

In the first, Lisa travels on a hallucinogenic journey to the magical world of Dissocia. In search of the hour that has dramatically altered the balance of her life she encounters a collection of colourful characters including comic “insecurity” guards, a Swedish watch maker and an Australian hotdog seller. Meanwhile the shadowy figure of the Black Dog, who may hold the answers that she is seeking, lurks in the background.

From this disjointed dream like state, Lisa is jolted back to the cold, clinical reality of the psychiatric hospital in which she is receiving treatment and where her bewildered family and friends must learn to come to terms with her condition.

As Black Laugh’s Jessica Rowe explains, the contrast in Neilson’s play between the chaotic fantasy world of Dissocia and the sombre surroundings of the hospital offers a poignant portrayal of mental illness through contrasting theatrical styles.
The 20 year old, originally from Wolverhampton but now living in Coventry, said:

The play is in two very distinct parts. In fact, you could almost be mistaken for thinking that they’re different productions but that’s deliberate because it gives the audience an insight into Lisa’s subconscious state while showing the reality of her condition and the difficulty that her loved ones have in understanding what’s going on with her.

As actors it also allows us to work from one extreme to the other; from the expressive, physical approach of the first act to the more restrained, naturalistic performing style of the second.

It is a moving play but it is morbidly funny and bizarre in parts as well. Neilson himself has described it as a kind of Alice in Wonderland for adults. As the name of our theatre company suggests that dark humour appeals to us and we hope audiences also enjoy our interpretation of the play.

Black Laugh Theatre Company are presenting The Wonderful World of Dissocia on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 May (8pm both nights) at The Space Upstairs, Spencer Yard, Spencer Street, Leamington Spa CV31 3SY. They will also be performing the piece at 7.30pm on Monday 22 May at the Ellen Terry Building, Jordan Well, Coventry CV1 5RW.

Tickets cost £6/£4 concession and can be booked by contacting Shawny Osgerby on 07811 822013 or by email to

For further press information, please contact Mark Farnan, communications assistant, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7765 8245 or email

Coventry School of Art and Design: Degree Show 2014

Coventry School of Art and Design’s Degree Show 2014 exhibits the original work of the UK’s next generation of creative talent.

Final year undergraduates in visual arts, design, music, fashion, dance, drama, media production and photography will be showcasing their work to the public at different locations across the city centre campus and at selected venues in London. Further information on Coventry School of Art and Design’s Degree Show 2014, including dates and venues of exhibitions, can be found at the dedicated website