We chatted to Tomi about starring in The Wonderful World of Dissocia at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Hi Tomi, what can you tell me about The Wonderful World of Dissocia? I find The Wonderful World of Dissocia hard to describe sometimes, because it’s such an amalgamation of genres and themes. I guess to summarise, it is a dark comedy that asks us questions about mental health we usually are not compelled to. Mental health has been explored in some great ways through the medium of theatre and I think this play focuses on the conditions that make us feel powerless or desire escape. I’m being a bit vague so as not to spoil anything, but above all The Wonderful World of Dissocia is a play that embodies dissonance, and that is its beauty.
What was it about the play that grabbed your attention? As an actor I think first and foremost the script grabbed me, it was funny even on the second read through and has so many opportunities for play and exploration. As a person the play grabbed me as someone who’s loved ones have been affected by their mental health as well as learning more about my own during the difficult pandemic period. I think the play really does what it sets out to, and I was drawn to the challenge and fun of staging it and bringing the world to life.
How have you found working on the production so far? It’s been really great, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly loving and giving company, and we’ve looked after ourselves when discussing the darker sides of the play. It’s been a lot of trial and error as rehearsals always are, and trying things in the room has been a positive challenge. The play leaves a lot of room for interpretation as there are so many ways you could read it, so there was a lot of discussion at the start just so we could get a grasp of the beast. We are moving into our technical rehearsals and I’m really happy with where we are right now.
How does it feel to be bringing the play to the Theatre Royal Stratford East? Theatre Royal Stratford East is such a beautiful theatre, and the space feels intimate and grand at the same time. Grace Smart our designer has done an amazing job in transforming the space and it feels very giving. Above all the theatre has such a great history and it’s been a desire of mine to work here for some time, so I feel really lucky and grateful. I hope we do it justice.
It’s not easy to try and cover such a huge issue such as mental health – but what would you say makes this play stand out in covering this topic? I feel like a lot of plays about mental health don’t focus on the person being affected as much as I’d like. I think this play brings a personal, and also a weirdly playful energy to the topic. I think comedy is a powerful tool when exploring heavy themes and the play really utilises that well. In the best way possible the play doesn’t let you rest, in my experience, you’re thinking, laughing or both. That juxtaposition puts you into the shoes of the main character Lisa, so it adds a layer of immersion that I think is necessary.
What can audiences expect when they come along and see the production? I don’t think the audience will have seen many shows like it. They should expect a show that truly loves and uses the medium of theatre, something they can’t see anywhere else right now.
By Emma Clarendon
The Wonderful World of Dissocia will play at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from the 16th September until the 15th October.