Thursday, 8 December 2016

Lion's View

Lion's View, such a unusual name for a hospital, although on second thoughts perhaps not seeing as its patients are thought to be lunatics, babblers, of a nervous disposition, mentally deranged. But then I don't know New Orleans, or even if this Garden District still exists, so perhaps it's not weird at all. Perhaps it's very much, or was at one time, in keeping with the area, or perhaps it's all fictional, and I, like a crackpot, have fallen for it, as I so often do for Tennessee's works. The playwright, not the American state, which I've come to mid-way in life.
Suddenly Last Summer is one of his stranger plays; a touch, some might say, semi-autobiographical if you choose to draw comparisons to Catharine (and yes, it is with a middle 'a') and his sister, Rose. I don't know – writers use and write out theirs or others experiences, not always truthfully but slanted, which, in my view, is more cathartic than say talking in circles with a psychologist. Cut out the middle man or woman and let the mind take its own journey. However, that opinion in itself could be wrong. No, not wrong, just not the accepted persuasion backed by experts.
Hell, I don't know what the broadly-held sentiment might be by those in the profession, other than treatment is still referred to as 'Therapy', and that it does now include 'the Arts': those creative pursuits we should do more of apparently, which makes perfect sense to me as one so inclined but may not to others who aren't. But what we can say is that times have moved on and people suffering mental health difficulties, for however long, are treated with more sympathy today. At least, I very much hope so, because although others will say there's still a way to go, we have come a way. And if you don't believe me, History! History! by which I mean: Research it!
I digress. Sort of.
Back to Sugar. Well, to be more precise, Dr Sugar, or if you prefer Dr Cukrowicz, as though the play is far from a saccharin affair, he's certainly the sweetener. The cube that makes the Polio vaccine palatable. I don't know why I said that! for the play has nothing whatsoever to do with Polio - see how the mind at times takes over – although perhaps there is a tenuous connection for, after all, he sweetens the bitterness the main players feel towards, sometimes each other but more often, Catharine. None of them like her 'story', which she continues to stick to in spite of her supposedly recuperating stay at St Mary's, for differing but nonetheless deplorable reasons: Aunt Violet fears it tarnishes the image of her late son, Sebastian, and wants it cut out, right out of Catharine's brain, whereas Mrs Holly and Catharine's brother, George, are more concerned that if Catharine pursues this course the money they are due to come into will be contested.
Truth is a bitter pill and even more so if the circumstances of it are grisly. Unsweetened, it's hard to swallow, particularly if it confirms something unspeakable about another to persons within and outside the family, or implicates the actions of others on their behalf. Even the Doctor, in this instance, is unable to sugar-coat it; in fact, he doesn't attempt to, he just wants to get to the bottom of the mystery – the cause of this young woman's mental instability - and when he does, he believes her, or at least believes in the possibility that what she says could, in part if not all, be true.
The truth scares and it threatens, as in it could be information that could be used against you, that others don't want to hear and won't unless they're forced to listen by a neutral protector. That's what I like to think is meant by 'Lion's View', for if you disassociate it from its hospital setting then those two words could be said to give a different connotation, one that's not entirely unconnected but which instead suggests an impartial guardian who helps to minimise, if not heal, psychological scars.

Picture credit: Le Mal du Pays (Homesickness), 1940, Rene Magritte