Review: Schwarzenjammer: Two Short Plays About Sadness

4 star rating
So cool to have both comedy and horror on stage at the same time, in two plays that show depression from the inside.
Schwarzenjammer: Two Short Plays About Sadness

Image: Etcetera Theatre

Closes here: Sunday 24 February 2019


Man Muck by Tama Phethean

When Dragons Were Wyrms by Jamie D. Huxley


Two dark, dirty and dazzling descents into depression.

A diptych of insights into sadness from two differently disordered minds.

Pain, trauma, dogs, slugs, spuds, dragons and muck merge to make the Schwarzenjammer.

Man Muck by Tama Phethean

A man in existential crisis. A failing relationship. A tin of corned beef.

When Dragons Were Wyrms by Jamie D. Huxley

A body-horror-comedy, about a man in bed with thousands of monsters.

ActDrop reviews

Eugenia Ziranova

Performance date: Saturday 23 February 2019
Review star rating image

Depression is such a common thing, yet its portrayals on screen or on stage are mostly "from outside".

And from the outside nothing happens.

A person shuts down contacts, quits activities, drops out from all social structures and eventually stops getting out of bed.

It's not a protagonist of a story that will be torn between true and false goals, that will strive, clash, survive, conquer the girl's heart, solve the murder, save the world or shoot from bazooka at the exploding helicopter.

All at the same time.

There is nothing visually spectacular in depression, everything happens inside of one head, and inside there is nothing smart, intellectually dazzling or hallucinatory glamorous either - the racing thoughts that depression rides on are shallow, patchy, painful and repetitive.

Hence so much respect goes to the team of Schwarzenjammer - "two short plays about sadness" - that show depression from the inside.

The first one, "Man Muck" written and performed by Tama Phethean, is one monologue of a depressed man, interrupted by voicemails from his girlfriend (Daisy Adams).

Nicely paced (we see the development of the illness over time) and moved around different "locations" - restaurant, street, bedroom, therapist office - by simple but precise soundscapes and lighting, it firmly led from the light areas to the dark and angry, then to feeling of weakness and hopelessness, and then to suicidal thoughts.

The guy was dashing through the symptoms list so confidently, that I even got worried for him, thinking the piece might be written from the first-hand experience.

So true and life-like, that it's rather better not to be.

The second piece, "When the dragons were wyrms" (no typo, wyrms) by Jamie D Huxley, was, on the contrary, a pure fantasy, and was answering the question - why there are so few films or books about the "inside" of depression, considering that "outside" depictions of depressed characters are just as common as a gull on a tip.

A British book editor (Daisy Adams) and an American film producer (Alex Humes) are going in parallel through respectively a book and a script, submitted by a severely depressed author (Tama Phethean).

And "severely" means he can not get out of bed for a piss.

And "submitted" means both readings can only take place in his imagination, because, first, if you can not get out of bed, you are unlikely to write anything either, and second, the heartless bastards (editors and producers) do not read manuscripts of unknown authors.


Anyway, back to the book/script.

The book/scripts tells about the author lying in bed, so poorly that he can not get out for a piss.

That's it.

Nothing else happens.

Oh, and his mind is on fire.

So, all the piece is how both editor and producer are trying their best to get anything publishable / filmable out of it, and it's one massive revolving joke.

It was so cool to have both comedy and horror on stage at the same time.

ActDrop listing for Etcetera Theatre
Our show listing for Schwarzenjammer: Two Short Plays About Sadness
Read our reviews' policy

Buy tickets for the RSC London season ...

Buy tickets for the RSC LOndon season at the Barbican