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Illusions of Liberty unveils the hidden reality of invisible chronic illness. We follow Liberty, a classical musician, whose deteriorating health is slowly jeopardizing her work and relationships.
While the dialogue is a little on the clunky side, representation of this field of disability is rare and thus I am thrilled with Lorna Wells’s portrayal. Whether it’s the bubbly monologues or the bouncy soundscape, the show remains light and entertaining. Corinne Walker rotates between three characters, as she explores the life of Liberty, who has Conns Syndrome.
Sometimes it feels impossible living with debilitating symptoms and deteriorating health, all whilst looking absolutely fine on the surface. Few people can imagine waking up tired every single morning, let alone being perpetually exhausted.
Then there’s those who struggle to understand. Liberty’s essential oil mother fusses over her with fistfuls of healing crystals, crying out “You never used to be ill.” Having your life robbed from you day in and day out is hard enough without people telling you that mindful meditation will cure all your ailments. Wells forms humour from struggle and the show is bursting with moments of laughter.
A gaslighting endocrinologist gently invalidates Liberty to the point she is forced to cry out and demand adequate care. Institutionalised racism means you must see a doctor to a black woman like a police officer to a black man. More emphasis on the discourse of racism from medical professionals could greatly elevate this production, and I urge it as a point of development.
We all know change is inevitable, but how do we cope when such change is painfully difficult? So difficult that for Liberty, a relationship of ten years is strained. In the dark, Liberty smashes a bouquet of roses to cello music. Invisible illness isn’t purely symptomatic. It is the fear that your illness will turn your partner from you. Or the fear that you’re so ill that you’re no longer yourself.
Mental health disorders too are rarely regarded as genuine disability and Wells pinpoints this struggle. Liberty’s mother is haunted by the living ghost of her abuser as her trauma seeps from past to present. PTSD permeates into the realm of misunderstood physical symptoms. With PTSD you’re not having just nightmares – you’re reliving memories. It’s another field of destimagtisation onstage I love to see.
Illusions of Liberty has some pitchy singing and disjointed accents, but the intentions behind it are entirely wholesome. I long to see what else Wells has up their sleeve.
Illusions of Liberty is playing online until 17th February. For more information and tickets, see Applecart Arts’ Website.