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Review: Post Traumatic Slay Disorder (Seven Dials Playhouse)

Review by Sam Waite

Mental health is an ever-relevant topic, and as society at large builds a larger understanding of it, each generation handles the matter differently to the last. At the centre of Lois-Amber Toole’s Post Traumatic Slay Disorder is Kit, a 20-something year old phone addict exemplifying the stereotypes of Generation Z. She's self-important but unenthusiastic with her own life, she imagines herself as a star in no particular field to ease her commutes, and there just may be something deeper than her social media dependence at play.

In Toole’s one person show, now playing at the Seven Dials Playhouse, we meet Kit as she scrolls through TikTok – “Me!” she announces after a couple of the app’s popular audios play aloud, before a voice-over yanks her sharply to reality. She is being assessed because of her disordered eating, and is just above overweight, meaning a prescribed course of talk therapy rather than the facility she speaks of with near-reverence.

The fourth wall is barely a concept in Lois-Amber Toole’s script – seeing this the same night Fleabag was re-screened in cinemas seems like fate, in this regard. We never see anyone but Kit on stage, though we do hear dialogue from a handful of other characters through voiceovers. Unfortunately, fond as I am of a troubled, dislikable protagonist, Kit becomes particularly insufferable in some early scenes and while this could be by design, a touch more humanity or allusions to kinder, less self-centred moments may have made her easier to spend an hour with.

This is not, of course, to disparage Toole’s performance. From the moment she took to the stage, silently buried in her phone before the show even began, I believed the character. She lends herself well to the inherent comedy of a deliberately vapid young woman, playing dumb and twee because it simply feels easier. In the final moments, when the underlying PTSD (the real kind, not the slay kind) has its reasons revealed, she reaches deep for an intensity that went some way towards redeeming this emotionally stagnant character’s arc.

Likewise, director Florence Winter Hill keeps Kit entirely believable, if clearly exaggerated. She has her star making excellent use of the small, simple set – a bedroom Lizzie McGuire fans would have killed for, with a wooden chair front and centre to act as a range of seats and platforms in other settings. Kit army crawls through the kitchen of her restaurant job, creeps cautiously through dark streets, and steps onto the dreaded scales at the doctor’s office, all without us needed a more complex set to understand what she's doing.

A true example of doing a lot with a little is lighting designer Marie Colahan, who manages to create impact and effective changes with just the bringing up or down of the main stage lights. In a brilliant comedic moment, they come up gradually to signify morning, before a poorly-rested Kit demands a longer sleep and they drop swiftly back down before rising again. These moments of sheer darkness are hard for both comedic and dramatic impact, and manage to sell the moment every time.

While Kit is an interesting character in short bursts, and Toole’s writing does have some solid moments of satire and exploration of the way young minds have been trained to think, it's hard to spend the show’s (admittedly surprisingly short) runtime in her company. Perhaps, I found myself thinking, this is a character better suited to online short form content, a la equally exaggerative and funny-in-short-bursts series like Adult Wednesday Addams or the once-beloved/reviled Fred.

A talented new voice in the body of a performer with the abilities to put it across does exist within Post Traumatic Slay Disorder, but as it stands it comes through only in brief, shining moments. Toole and co. are brave for delving into these subject matters and even find success in mining their dramatic potential, but as it stands this feels like the early stages of a work in progress still firming up what it wants to say.


Post Traumatic Slay Disorder plays at the Seven Dials Playhouse until July 1st.

Photos by Lola on Li



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