The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter is fast establishing itself as a go to venue for the south west. Fresh from winning the most welcoming theatre award at the UK Theatre Awards, its programming is as fresh and interesting as the range of cocktails offered in its bar. A Little Bit OCD, playing as part of the theatre's "From Devon With Love" season produced by Framework, begins in slightly shaky fashion, but soon finds its confidence and becomes a warm, funny and tender look at how obsessive-compulsive disorder can affect our lives.
Written by Bristol Old Vic graduate Ben Callon, who also acts (and one must presume directs, as no director was listed on the cast sheet - a case of actors doing it for themselves?) along with four other recent graduates of the school. The structure is two-fold, we follow Sarah, played with a wide and teary-eyed terror by Roisin Kelly, who can't stop imagining herself slaughtering her loved ones, family or "anyone with a pulse", and her gradual attempts to combat this through CBT. Interspersed with this are three long confessional monologues about other forms that OCD can take, from the young girl who finds herself in a complex relationship with food at the age of seven to a Catholic girl who finds her thoughts about Jesus taking an erotic edge, both of whom are portrayed with unflinching honesty by Angelina Woods in an impressive performance. Similarly, Chris Hancock, takes us on a journey of how jealousy in a relationship can turn from the irrational into the realms of tragic.
With only a couple of showings at the Bike Shed, one presumes this is the first stage of development and there are things that could still be developed further. The first scene between Callon and Kelly, as Sarah's well intentioned but uncomprehending boyfriend who tries to help her tackle her problems, feels a bit stilted, with the characters speaking issues rather than in dialogue that feels suited to a young couple trying to tackle her mental-health issues together. But it soon picks up in confidence, not only in the monologues but in the introduction of Sarah's brother and his wife, her hundred words a minute sister-in-law, who has her own form of minor OCD, as she cleans the house like "Norah Batty on meth", and who is funny and warm in Stephanie Racine's likeable performance.
Perhaps without the assistance of an outside eye the technical side was lacking, the lighting a bit flat, the actors occasionally missing their light, but this is not to take away from a play that tackles the stigma of mental-health bravely and without resorting to cliché. Hopefully this won't be the last we see of another little gem from the Bike Shed.
- Kris Hallett