Review: purged

Hope Theatre
4 star rating
Brave and emotively powerful with a first-class performance at its core, 'purged' is a complex but socially important piece of theatre that certainly deserves a much wider hearing.
Purged at The Hope Theatre

Image: Catharsis

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Theatre Hope Theatre

Closed here Monday 6 February 2017

Cast and creatives


Orla Sanders


Justin Murray
Chris Polites
Robson Barreto
Lauren Cameron
Paul Freeman
Amy Lawrence


You are now twenty nine.

A few weeks ago, you attempted to stay twenty nine forever.

You failed.

How do you explain the world you are in now?

One simple question over a dinner table sparks an extraordinary chain of memories and associations in this unique solo piece.

Fusing physical theatre and intimate storytelling, this is a heady tale of euphoria, redemption, and extremity written by Chris Polites (writer for Catharsis’ HECUBA in 2015).

PURGED is a play about the impossibility of communicating to others the issues around mental health deterioration, and trying to break the associated isolation by connecting to the world through the people it inhabits.


PURGED received development time at Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell in 2016 after an initial scratch performance at The Bread & Roses Theatre.

Catharsis return to The Hope for two nights only following the success of HIPPOLYTUS in 2015.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Sunday 5 February 2017
Review star rating image

On Sunday and Monday nights, in between its main run, The Hope Theatre offers a slot for "companies to try new work out in front of an audience, for bold one-person shows to make their mark, and for new producers and companies to stage their first show with little financial risk".

It's an immensely important vehicle, providing companies with an invaluable opportunity to trial a show and check-out reactions.

'purged' from Catharsis Theatre is now being presented in this Sunday/ Monday slot with just a single actor, and lasting around 50 minutes.

Justin Murray's moving production is both timely and hugely ambitious in terms of the complexity of the subject it seeks to examine.

Mental health hardly gets a fair deal in terms of either the government's overall spending, or in the general public's perception and understanding of the issue and knowledge of the signs of deterioration in someone's mental wellbeing.

We all need to know more about mental illness to recognise when someone may need help and support.

But, as this play points out with heart-wrenching effect, it's no easy matter either for those suffering from mental ill-health, or those who live with them.

The main character we meet here presents an enormous challenge for actor Orla Sanders, and moreover, its a substantial challenge to watch.

Dressed in a kind of short, white shift which has echoes of a straight-jacket, Ms Sanders is Alex, a twenty-nine year old male whose mental health has declined to the extent that he has tried to kill himself.

'purged' is essentially about the difficulty of communicating to other people that something is going wrong with a person's mental state - that some form of mental illness has taken hold.

Alex's brother doesn't recognise, or perhaps appreciate, the signs of mental illness, regarding Alex's behaviour as "selfish" and believing that he is merely acting "deranged".

And there's one strikingly powerful scene where the issue of communication is forcefully driven home to us.

Looking at the audience, Alex tells us we must "bow our heads".

He repeats the instruction again and again, getting more agitated with each repetition.

Of course, none of us do bow our heads.

In part, we're confused, but we also don't understand why he is telling us to do it.

Should we do as he's instructing?

We don't know, and for a few moments we're extremely uncomfortable, unsettled and feel helpless.

Chris Polites' formidable script is riddled, as one might expect, with dark and gloomy images that flash through Alex's turbulent mind along with bewildering metaphors and disconcerting concepts, offset against the story structure of Alex's family-life.

As such, it's not always an easy play to follow since emotions, time and story are intertwined.

I found myself a little confused about the sequencing and whether we were witnessing events leading up to Alex's suicide attempt, or whether we were also looking potentially at further attempts.

However, you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre because the entire audience were totally rivetted by Orla Sanders' hypnotically potent performance which employs repetitive movement - chest slapping, arm wrenching and the like - to visualise the volatile inner workings of Alex's mind.

'purged' has already had some development at the Bread & Roses Theatre and the Blue Elephant Theatre too - I suspect it might get some additional refinement, but it's already a piece that is sufficiently stage-ready to warrant the risk of a longer run.

Brave and emotively powerful with a first-class performance at its core, 'purged' is a complex but socially important piece of theatre that certainly deserves a much wider hearing.

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