The Patient Gloria review at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘cathartic and anarchic’
In 1965, Gloria Szymanski, a 30-year-old American woman, allowed herself to be filmed while engaged in therapy sessions with three different therapists to illustrate their different approaches.
Intended as a teaching tool, the results were screened publicly as Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (also known as The Gloria Films) – without her consent.
Irish performer and theatremaker Gina Moxley uses this as the basis for a playful, funny and feminist analysis of the way that female desire is so often minimalised and stigmatised, and the nature of the patient-therapist relationship.
Moxley, clad in covetable gold boots and a suit, plays all three therapists – the laconic Carl Rogers, the dismissive Fritz Perls and Albert Ellis, who seems more interested in his own voice than Gloria’s.
She begins by crafting herself a makeshift dick – a cock made of cloth; since dicks loom large in the world of psychotherapy and life in general, as well as this show.
With musical accompaniment from Jane Deasy, Moxley and Liv O’Donoghue, as Gloria, re-enact snippets from each session, giving more weight and space to her experiences than the therapists did at the time.
The results are cathartic and anarchic. Moxley dives hungrily between O’Donoghue’s legs. Graffiti penises pepper the back wall.
While John McIlduff’s production sometimes feels pleasingly wayward and layered, it also sometimes feels tangled.
The play’s most potent moment, however, is also one of its most straightforwardly presented: an account of the lack of sex education in the Ireland of Moxley’s youth, the small, casual acts of harassment she faced over the years, and the saddening fact she had an abortion fund.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.