666DSM: A Dark Comedy
American-born writer and actor Douglas de Souza’s manic creation based on legitimate concerns about the DSM, America’s psychologists’ bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Who decides who is insane or unsafe, or not normal? De Souza is angry at what he perceives is the homogenisation of people and society. Any serious deviation from the societal norms could mean you match a profile in the DSM. He mentions, for instance, that homosexuality was in the book from 1952-74 as a Sociopathic Personality Disturbance. I read up on this myself and whilst the reference to homosexuality was removed the disorder was simply renamed Sexual Orientation Disturbance (*1).
To illustrate his point de Souza performs his on-man show in 6 segments, each with a different character whose experiences offer different angles into how the perception of mental illness affects the individual. He enacts an artist, a conman, a Russian club promoter, a conspiracy theorist, a clubber and a psychiatry patient. The highlight of these scenes was the raver which amidst the pumping rave music of a club our raver dances and cavorts whilst extolling the virtues of club drugs and the nihilistic attitude and disenfranchised feelings of a generation that have lost faith in a society that rarely values its margins, and these margins are being squeezed all the time. The spectrum of what is considered normal gets smaller and smaller. This is a piece of theatre with a voice and a powerful message; in a world where governments make seem to be more and more paranoid about the behaviour of their citizens, snooping and attempting greater control, what is wrong with humans being paranoid also. By labeling people as mentally ill may we be hindering the advancement and growth of consciousness?
The director Cindy Sibilsky makes excellent use of projections and a pumping soundtrack (Public Enemy, Underworld, Biggy Small etc.) to add to the excellent character acting of De Souza. Intelligent, thought provoking and current. 666DSM is something all psychologists and those with the power to pass judgement on people capacities should see and reflect upon. If we don’t it won’t be too long before we’re all in the book. 4 STARS
Reviewer : David McMenemy
*1 Spitzer, R.L. (1981)”The diagnostic status of homosexuality in DSM-III: a reformulation of the issues” American Journal of Psychiatry 138