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Mary Barnes


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A: David Edgar Pf: 1978, Birmingham Pb: 1979 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Living room and bedroom of large old house, east London, 1965–c.1972 C: 8m, 5fDr Douglas Walker (30) has, together with fellow psychiatrists Brenda (33), Hugo (in his late thirties), and Zimmerman (in his twenties), set up a commune, to which they will invite mental patients for humane and gentle therapy. The first is Mary Barnes (42), who has a history of mental illness and imagines that she is a nurse. They are joined by American psychiatrist Eddie (25) with his new girlfriend Beth. When Mary refuses to eat, Eddie, fearing that she may have to be returned to hospital, wins her over with games. Beth is jealous of the attention he pays to her. Locals smash windows in the house, protesting about having ‘nutters’ in the area. Zimmerman leaves, a new patient Laurence joins the group, and tensions become apparent within the ‘Community’. Mary appears naked, covered in her own faeces, and Eddie cleans her. When Eddie has to go away for three weeks, Mary pines for him and refuses to eat again. Three years later, Angie, a disturbed rich girl of 20, comes to the house, where Mary is now well enough to help her. Some time later, Angie is restored to health, but slips back into madness when her mother comes to take her away. Mary has an exhibition of paintings, which proves a great success. Mary's brother, whose drugs for mental illness make him ‘like wax, a robot’, comes to stay, leaves, but returns. Some years later, everyone has had to leave, because the lease ran out; Angie returns but, having endured conventional treatment, can now remember nothing about her stay.

A: David Edgar Pf: 1978, Birmingham Pb: 1979 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Living room and bedroom of large old house, east London, 1965–c.1972 C: 8m, 5f

In the wake of R. D. Laing's theories, several plays and films appeared extolling the virtue of living through madness rather than ‘curing’ it with drugs, shock therapy, and surgery. Edgar wrote this episodic adaptation of a true story, based on the book Mary Barnes by Mary Barnes and Joseph Berke.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

David Edgar (b. 1948)


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