A sombre chorus, dressed in black, step in front of a girl in pigtails, cross-legged on the floor.
This is Moon House Theatre’s The Neat Freak, about Meg’s battle with OCD from pre-school age. In a style which mixes Greek tragedy with physical theatre, her story comes through clearly, in her own words directly to us, and through the observations of family, classmates, and a therapist.
Ellen Larson plays Meg, whose testimony throughout is intriguing, measured, and informative. From relying on a TV routine, through turning off electric switches at school, to becoming an obsessive germophobe, the progression of her mental illness is disturbing but well-portrayed.
The rest of the company act as both a four member Greek chorus and other characters. Rob Beckett and Zoe Fawcett are excellent as Meg’s confused parents, supporting each other in their denial. There are moments of truth here, and of tenacity. It’s a powerful piece.
Props are minimal – a white sheet serves as many things, the company utilise their bodies to conjure up a living-room sofa and a set of stairs. The physical choreography highlights Meg’s state of mind and that of others around her, as friends and family label her ‘freak, weird, neat’.
OCD is often taken lightly, as if it just makes someone extra clean or fussy. The Neat Freak makes clear it is a terrifying, debilitating, and disruptive to a normal life to see everyone and everything as a threat. Not simply superstition or a quirk, but a harsh reality for many.
With inner thoughts and internet searches represented by torches which click on and off, this play – devised and directed by the cast – feels almost intrusive of one person’s story, but valuable.
This is a show which deserves to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience. It ends at the Camden Fringe tonight, 8 August – tickets here, then can be seen at the Greater Manchester Fringe on 5 September – tickets here.
Fringe rating: ****