Please note: This review – like the play itself – discusses Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and intrusive thoughts. Please take care when reading and click off this article if these subjects are triggering to you.
Its title is a tongue-in-cheek nod to what is, arguably, the most common response to someone revealing they have OCD. In attempting to appear empathetic by suggesting we all experience intrusive thoughts or urges, the debilitating mental health condition is reduced to a synonym for perfectionism – a misconception mocked with daring abundance in Concept Theatre’s latest production.
I’m Just A Little Bit OCD is also the name of a podcast, which helps a struggling Tilly (Sarah Eakin) understand that her intrusive thoughts about harming children or her sister Grace (Jasmine Hodgson) are not who she is, and exactly why she has to open and close a draw multiple times for reassurance.
Presented by Matilda (Catarina Thane), the podcasts take the form of fourth wall-breaking live recordings, our host wandering on-stage with a microphone attached to a lead which trails offstage. She’s unfiltered, bubbly and likeable, though some of her comedy fails to land. Delivered at speed and with a hint of exaggeration, she talks about how intrusive thoughts require her to take certain actions in order to ‘save her mum’s life’ and avoid her dying in a car crash. A smattering of laughter here suggests we’re meant to laugh at the ridiculous irrationality of such thoughts, but sadly struggles to establish where that line sits. The show’s cringeworthy concluding song and dance, in addition to feeling out of place, only confuses that balance further.
It’s skewering of neurotypical misconceptions, however, is razor sharp. A quiz left on our seats asks us how uncomfortable a series of unaligned objects makes us, with hand sanitiser and door handles dished out to the highest scorers. No one ever does ‘funny’ internet quizzes about the intrusive sexual thoughts associated with OCD, Matilda notes, in the play’s overarching and most impactful point: neurotypical pick and choose the parts of OCD they like, to present as a personality trait, while abandoning all the uncomfortable baggage which comes with it. In I’m Just A Little Bit OCD, unpacks it all in a remarkably and refreshingly candid fashion.
Some transitions between the podcast and scenes with Grace and Tilly are also impressive, as the voice we hear from the podcast soon emerges for her monologue. The decision to have intrusive thoughts represented by a flashing lightbulb – the same one Matilda begins the show by flicking on and off several times – is equally erudite.
The contrast between Matilda at the ‘end’ of their OCD journey and Tilly at the ‘start’ is a curious and clever way to explore the disorder, even if the character of Grace – rushing from impatient sibling to overly supportive stater reads as odd or disingenuous. Her proudly proclaiming she would take Tilly to the doctors, and generally being well-meaning but unhelpful, prompts an eye roll for its hyperbole. The character lacks any substance other than being the embodiment of the ignorance challenged by Matilda, with her lines feeling a little too on-the-nose.
In exploring the pitfalls of OCD discourse with a cast and crew of OCD sufferers, Concept Theatre have created a vital informative production, but it’s comedy isn’t as precise.
I’m Just A Little Bit OCD is now playing at The Cockpit in London (Marylebone) until 12 June.
It will then play at Southwark Playhouse on 19 June and then the Chickenshed on 26 June.
Rehearsal images: Leon Bach.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘I’m Just A Little Bit OCD’ for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this article and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.