We recently had the pleasure of seeing a preview of WEIRD, a one hour one-person show about a young woman's experience with OCD, which is debuting tomorrow at the Edinburgh Fringe at The Pleasance Theatre.
Based on the real-life experiences of the talented writer Lucy Burke, WEIRD tells the story of Yasmin (played to perfection by Amy Doyle), who has struggled for OCD for her entire life, as she returns to her hometown after being discharged from university due to her struggles with OCD. As she struggles to deal with the stigma of dropping out and the increasing symptoms of her disorder, she flashes back to the losses, loves and dreams of her childhood and teens which led her to this position.
You can tell WEIRD is written from personal experience, as Yasmin's story will be painfully relatable for many people with this condition. Not only due to its portrayal of the the intrusive thoughts and compulsions, which are depicted with a crushing, exhausting intensity, but also through the way that it weaves in and out of Yasmin's life. While her OCD is omnipresent throughout her life, it's not the only thing that defines Yasmin, and her experiences of life, loss, love and growing up are just as important as the condition which exists alongside them. Her OCD feeds off her experience and also informs them, but it's not the only part of her life.
But the other striking thing about WEIRD is just how funny it is. Like many people with OCD, Yasmin is very self-aware about her condition. Even when in the worst throes of the disorder and unable to leave her bedroom, she's able to comment on the absurdities of her obsessions and compulsions with wry amusement. From her exasperated sighs as she reads off a list of "mental health books" her mum has well-meaningly placed by her bed, to wearily recounting a schoolmate mistaking her compulsions for lewd advances, Yasmin is able to keep us laughing with her at the ridiculousness of her life while never once making light of it.
We think this will really resonate for a lot of people: while "OCD jokes" in the media are often crass, inaccurate and trivialising, many people with OCD do have a dark sense of humour about their condition and are in some sense aware of how ridiculous their compulsions seem, and it can be a way of coping with the extreme distress of living with it.
And WEIRD certainly doesn't shy away from how life-destroying OCD can be. It's a difficult watch in places, especially for people who have struggled with similar issues. Doyle truly captures just how painful intrusive thoughts can be, and how soul-crushing the constant barrage of horrific thoughts and time-consuming compulsions is. Equally harrowing, however, is the effect it has on her friends and family, who mask their unspoken shame and worry with a friendly, cheerful front. A particularly powerful scene involves an encounter between Yasmin and her younger sister, who finally explodes at her after having taken a backseat for her entire life due to Yasmin's condition. While WEIRD never takes the spotlight away from Yasmin's internal struggles, it is very conscious of the devastating effect OCD can have on the loved ones of people who live with it.
Equal parts harrowing, hilarious, warm, heartbreaking and life-affirming, WEIRD is a must-see for anyone going up to Edinburgh Fringe this year!
Check out the trailer here: