Rightfully tough to take in its exploration of mental illness, Meghan Tyler’s Medicine impresses at the Hope Theatre
“You taught me the wrong things”
It’s a real gift to be able to write the kind of dialogue that manages to both leave you breathless with laughter and yet feel entirely rooted in believability. And as Ma bickers delightfully with her daughter Moira-Bridget over whether she’ll catch her death without a sweater, or the quality of the wine she’s nicked, or what they should drink that wine out of (I think this is the first play I’ve seen to mention Mooncups…), it is clear that Meghan Tyler has such skill.
But Medicine is far from just fun and games and banter, the full complexity of mother-daughter relationships is explored here, right down to everything that they share. Which includes a tendency to severe depression. We first meet the pair on Warrenpoint Pier in Northern Ireland, where Ma discovers Moira on the edge – quite literally – but though every part of her wants to do something, sometimes it is just impossible to help.
Off the Middle were last seen at the Hope Theatre with the utterly devastating In Other Words and wisely, Paul Brotherston’s production reunites that exceptional creative team. Will Alder’s lighting has an uncompromising harshness to it which leaves nowhere to escape, so too the inescapable sounds from Iida Aino. And Brotherston’s direction pares back all artifice to really heighten the emotion here.
Writing from her own experience and performing as Moira too, Tyler spares us little of the desperation of a young woman fully in the grips of mental illness. And Lynsey-Anne Moffat is painfully effective as the mother who has found her own solution of wine and pills but when it comes to her daughter asking for help, can find nothing but anguished silence.
The attempts to widen the scope of the writing to a wider Northern Irish context don’t always come off, especially considering how strong all the gallows humour is. But nevertheless, Medicine proves powerfully emotive and rightfully tough to take.