The Patient Gloria

The Patient Gloria by Gina Moxley – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

As soon as Gina Moxley, in suit and gold boots, steps centre stage it is clear something special is happening. As both writer and lead performer she is the ringmaster for a glorious, riotous evening that feels good and hits hard. Moxley is about to play three men – all psychiatrists – and we know this because she tells us while swinging a cock-and-balls. These are made from stuffed tights, with bird seed ‘for heft’, and she is trying them out for size to find out how it feels to be in charge. She unfolds the true story of a demonstration film, made in the 1960s supposedly for psychiatry students, in which a woman called Gloria is analysed by three shrinks. Liv O’Donoghue plays Gloria, who is patronised, used and pulled apart in a sequence of leering power games. The films were later released for all to see without her permission.

On paper, the story sounds worthy but on stage it is one of the most enjoyable things you will ever see. Moxley turns the tables on the grim patriarchy with a series of fierce parodies of the psychiatrists involved. Director John McIlduff stages with unstoppable verve, as Moxley disappears up Gloria’s skirts and another phallus flies around on a drone. The action constantly breaks for gleeful comment, and proceedings are accompanied by Jane Deasy in bass. When, inevitably, she ends the performance with ‘Gloria’ it feels like a blow against male control of women’s lives, expressed through irresistible theatre. Gina Moxley is clearly at the top of her game.

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