DSM: A Dark Comedy about Sanity, Society and Spirituality, triumphs in its acknowledgement of a very interesting and important topic, but its actual discussion slightly falls flat. It is however, hugely entertaining and de Souza gives a stunningly energetic performance.
De Souza enacts six characters (an artist, a trickster, a promoter, a conspiracy theorist, a raver and a seeker) with six different mental disorders inspired by the DSM – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These disorders are bi-polar, nicotine/alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction/ sociopathic behaviour, paranoid personality disorder, hallucinogen dependence, and ‘unknown’.
Although it wasn’t particularly clear how these lives were intertwined, the notion of six characters being played so well by one person – to the point where de Souza is not really recognisable from character to character – is hugely impressive.
The best character is the hallucinogenic dependent character. He enacts an entire rave by himself, dancing hyperactively around the stage impersonating other characters. The audience’s knowledge of one person on stage is challenged by their sharing of this character’s perception (or hallucination). This is very effective. The Paranoid Personality is also brilliant and very believable as a conspiracy theorist YouTube blogger. The Nicotine Addict had an impressively realistic voice.
As an idea with a lot of potential, the DSM could have perhaps been addressed in a more poignant and subtle way – the satire did not really come through. Additionally, too much was trying to be achieved with the added theme of spirituality.
The final lines “expand your life. What mental order do you think you have?” is a bit histrionic. Although it is certainly agreed that mental illness is political and our definitions are arbitrary, the average person in the audience is still quite different to the characters on stage. Perhaps with subtler (although this could be less entertaining) characterisations a stronger satire could shine through. However this is definitely well worth a watch.