By Zekria Ibrahimi
Key Themes: play, script, schizophrenia, fantasy
This is a play about fantasy and reality, about how the so- called delusions of a psychiatric patient can seem superior to the harshness of a community treatment order. The community treatment order is a recent alteration in the Mental Health Act, and allows medication to be imposed on a patient in the community.
The protagonist, Mary, believes that she is a Moon traveller, an extraterrestrial explorer, even as she is being tied down by a community treatment order. She is locked into a cruel struggle with her community psychiatric nurse, Louise.
In the end, Mary cannot escape from her medication, from clopixol, from the depot injection. There is no magical solution that will allow her to evade the community treatment order.
For the truth is that the ‘mental health services’ are dangerously cynical, and are as barren, as hostile to life, as the surface of the Moon…
About the Author
Zekria Ibrahimi (born in 1959) is defined by his schizophrenia. It first hit him long ago, in his late teens. He is fifty one years old now, grey and frail, almost a pensioner, and he does not always want to remember how, as an adolescent in the late 1970’s, he suddenly became afraid of everything surrounding him, and, worst of all, of himself. He would run around the countryside and knock at the doors of strangers because he feared the apocalypse was pursuing him … He would pick up rubbish outside in alleys and streets and hoard it in his not very palatial lodgings … He was always wandering away from home, searching for … what would never be found again … the straight route, the level way … He was a tramp, freezing during the nights in public toilets where he had various unsavoury insects as company on the cold concrete …
There were years of pain when his schizophrenia became almost his only companion- albeit a sadistic one, punishing him even as he hugged it. Perhaps, to echo both R. D. Laing and Emily Dickinson, it is the entire globe, it is general society, that is truly insane. Schizophrenics simply burrow all too deeply under the surface. They reach the very core of the savage reality in us all. Most varnish over the anarchic truth within through the superficial sham paraded as ‘civilization’. Schizophrenics prefer to be uncomfortably honest barbarians.
Eventually, after much psychotic shouting on Hammersmith Broadway, the hapless Zekria was confined at the Charing Cross unit in the West London Mental Health Trust. Following the unsafe unstable freedom of his schizophrenia, came the restrictions of Section 3. He would not have survived without the multi- racial compassion of the individual doctors and nurses in Charing Cross. Yet the overall SYSTEM remains an ogre of rules and restraints, and the INSTITUTION of psychiatry can be as cold and vicious as in the days of lobotomy and insulin shock.
Now he is elderly, but still he muses about being locked up, drugged up, about how, with schizophrenia, the treatment can be worse than the disease…
The play starts- and finishes- with a young psychiatric patient, Mary, receiving a depot injection as part of a Community Treatment Order from her staid middle aged nurse, Louise. Mary decides to abscond and go homeless, and, during her unhappy time on the streets, she meets a White Witch disguised as an elderly bag lady. The White Witch- Ting Tang- offers an alternative to the CTO- this alternative being adventure on the Moon. Mary is initially sceptical, but she is apparently taken to the Moon by magic. There, on the lunar surface, she meets a Moon Man, whom she calls Fred. He has (temporarily) freed himself from the serfdom, reinforced by mind- corrupting potions, of the tyrannical lunar Queen, whom Mary has been sent to the Moon to confront.
Mary is then dragged back to Earth for a Managers’ Meeting to prolong the CTO another year; the Managers are as grey and forbidding as the Moon, and, alongside her consultant, Doctor Sly, and CPN Louise, consign Mary to yet more of the CTO.
Returning to the Moon, Mary- with the Moon Man and the White Witch- arranges an appointment with the Queen through a lunar bureaucrat who is a very narrow individual. The threesome then meet the Queen at last. Fred eventually surrenders himself to the Queen out of fear. But Mary and the White Witch answer back to the point that the Queen collapses, a tyrant unable to withstand free debate. The Queen, for all her manifest pomp, is empty within
The play alas ends with another depot injection. Mary’s insistence that she has been to the Moon has resulted only in an increase of the medication. Mary’s lunar trip may have been merely a delusion, but Mary’s cosmic dreams seem superior to the vicious reality of a Community Treatment Order.
(The stage has only two women. They are both standing. One is young, black, with jeans and a sweater. She looks clean and demure, though she is not dressed particularly smartly. The other has the drab skirt and the drab face of middle age. These are two ordinary people, but involved in an act that is, in its way, extraordinary- the delivery of a depot anti- psychotic injection. This is an interaction between a psychiatric nurse and a psychiatric patient in the community. Community is the all too appropriate word here, for this is a play about a community treatment order. The patient is Mary, who turns round to grimace at the audience. The nurse is Louise, white, in her mid- fifties.