The very notion of discussing mental health in the 1960s would have been unthinkable, a reality of society often sidelined and viewed upon as a taboo subject. How internal emotional and psychological struggles manifest varies dependent on the individual, in certain cases, bringing about devastating consequences. Decades on and it’s starting to become socially acceptable to discuss mental health openly, but there’s a long way to go still. Following the mysterious death of a young woman in 1969, Two Thousand and One’s unsettling production Conscience observes the interrogation of a suspect – mental health an underlying factor throughout the narrative.
Tasked with figuring out the culprit/s of Bella’s (Amelia Kingsnorth) flatmate’s perpetrator, Conscience roots itself in the austere, punishing confines of an interrogation room – questioning led by two detectives (Olivia Rainbow and Jacqueline Crain). A table, chairs and an unforgiving spotlight forging a prospect of no escape. What then transpires is a gradual unravelling of events that help form insight into the unfortunate incident and the confrontation of this. Laila Latifa crafting a claustrophobic, intense reality filled with various questions – the underlying one of course being – is our protagonist guilty of what she’s been accused of. The choice to have the play set solely within an interrogative environment compels – power play an integral force here.
Kingsnorth’s Bella seemingly innocent and unaware of the gravity of the situation, determined to leave as soon as possible and live life as near enough as to what it was before – Rainbow and Crain unwavering in their pursuit to get to the truth of the matter and get past Bella’s seemingly sweet veneer. A psychological game of chess, Conscience pits both parties against one another, icy in tone – both locked within their truths/agendas, wearing the opponent down, constantly confronted with dead ends as they seek a conclusion that best suits them. The prison facility’s cleaner (Zafra Howard) an enigmatic, yet omniscient energy – a reminder of the outside world that brings a sense a normality to the tense atmosphere established, a warmth to an already icy situation. The show embodies a grit that lingers, the silences loaded with intrigue. The show’s twists and turns possessing the potential to tie all of the loose ends together seamlessly by delving deeper into Bella’s story further and therefore evoking an emotional pull – a show with promise.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Conscience was shown on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th August at the Cockpit Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…