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Madhouse Re:exit review Shoreditch Town Hall, London – ‘provocative and political’

Madhouse Re:exit at Shoreditch Town Hall, London. Photo: Helen Murray

Paradise Fields is the fictional corporate care facility created by Access All Areas for Madhouse Re:exit, an immersive promenade show about care for people with learning disabilities.

The ironic name is indicative of the strong strand of satire that runs throughout this provocative and political piece.

Staged in the Ditch – an intensely claustrophobic maze of rooms beneath Shoreditch Town Hall – the audience is inducted into the sleek public-facing arm of Paradise Fields. A misstep on the tour, however, takes everyone behind-the-scenes to reveal the inadequate life the ‘service users’ really lead.

The over-arching narrative of an escaped patient, and the ‘tour group gone astray’ format, remains a bit under baked. Much better are individual scenes performed by the company’s five artists – all of whom have learning disabilities – to radically challenge assumptions about people with these conditions.

Imogen Roberts’ performance as the Goddess is based around an ancient Olmec tribe that deified people with down syndrome as jaguar-gods. It also reclaims the trope of the ‘wild woman’, turning it into a celebratory label, and defiantly attempts to destabilises ideas about disability, sexuality and sensuality.

Director Nick Llewellyn’s production is far from easy to experience. There are moments requiring audience participation that flounder due to a palpable unease among those present around potentially offensive tasks – such as throwing food at a man in a straight jacket.

But this discomfort is likely deliberate. As the show pinpoints, modern care provision under austerity is woefully and dangerously antiquated: and that shouldn’t make for easy viewing.

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Challenging and politicalised immersive show based on first-hand experience of learning disabilities and care