Review: The Patient Gloria (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

Gina Moxley’s piece comes to Scotland

The Patient Gloria
The Patient Gloria
© Lara Cappelli

If there's anywhere to expect a model d*ck on a drone soar across an auditorium, it's probably at the Edinburgh Fringe. The moment comes some way into Gina Moxley's The Patient Gloria, which arrives in Scotland following an original run at Dublin's Abbey in 2018.

Moxley's show is based on a series of 1965 tapes entitled Three Approaches to Psychology (The Gloria Films), which saw the titular Gloria (Szymanski, a 30 year-old divorcee grappling with all manner of problems) treated by three different therapists, with the entire experience filmed live. Szymanski was told the tapes were to be used exclusively for education purposes – they were later broadcast on TV and even shown in cinemas, all without her consent. "The poster girl for psychotherapy", she became – the recordings can be seen right now on YouTube.

The tapes are ‘recreated' live on stage with Moxley playing the three psychologists and Liv O'Donoghue taking on the role of Gloria. Rather than lapsing into an episodic rhythm, the show throws in some rocking music courtesy of Jane Deasy, who provides pithy asides from a microphone to the side of the stage. The sessions are a fascinating experience even without Moxley's touch – you never know if Szymanski (expert turn from O'Donoghue) is performing for the cameras, adapting to suit the televised medium or genuinely feeling the sense of angst she describes.

Mixing the eccentric and phallocentric, the production rips into the misogynistic behaviour that characterises both the tapes, the therapists and the wider world (these tapes, notably, are still used today). Between the three sessions, Moxley recites moments of systemic, gendered abuse, both from her own life and beyond, in a society where politeness can kill.

It's all whimsical and zany (at one point Moxley, portraying the first therapist Carl Rogers, mimes crawling into a vagina) with a scathing edge, that glibly juxtaposes abstract theorising about sex and sexuality with the real-life consequences these flawed assumptions could have. Szymanski's experiences are all too common in a world where the brains and bodies of women are filtered through a masculine framework – both the G spot and the fallopian tubes, Moxley points out, are named after men.

Read all our Edinburgh Festival coverage here