EDINBURGH FRINGE: Bedlam at the Sweet Grassmarket 2, Apex Grassmarket Hotel EH1 2HS, venue 18 ***
Performers come to the Edinburgh Fringe for all sorts of reasons: some are hoping to be ‘discovered’, others are here just for the experience and to have fun.

Wrong Tree Theatre belongs to the second category, although alongside the fun is commitment.

For the group of students from Durham University have picked a sombre subject to explore, one that their young minds could never grasp.  And yet in this original play, written and directed by Emily Carter, they do at times manage to convey the horror of being incarcerated in the infamous Victorian asylum, Bedlam.

The venue is not the most ideal for this production. The stage is tiny and a lot of the action takes place on the floor – which makes difficult viewing for the audience other than those sitting in the front row as there is no rake.

The doctor (in a white coat, of course!) is, understandably, too young and lacks authority, yet Sam Draisey’s portrayal is decidedly creepy as he inflicts cruelty on his patients.

At the centre of this psychological drama is Nellie, diagnosed as hysterical when her only ‘affliction’ is speaking up for herself. Refusing to become zombie-like through monotonous routine and medication, she starts a revolution amongst the patients which ends with horrifying consequences.

As Nellie, Liz McGrady gives a sensitive and spirited performance, in complete contrast to Alana Mann’s Eleanor, at all times vacant and hardly ever speaking, and yet she too has great stage presence, while Sammy French steps up to the mark as the jittery, hallucinating Matthew, especially when receiving electric treatment.

This is an historically researched piece about how mental health patients were treated in Victorian times, and how wrongly they were diagnosed. We know, from too many stories, that society has not always moved on as it should, but hopefully this and other productions in the Fringe to do with mental health, will help us all become more aware.

Bedlam is at the Sweet Grassmarket 2, Apex Grassmarket Hotel EH1 2HS until Aug 18 at 4.30pm (50 mins). Tickets £7/£5.
Box Office: 0131 243 3596/www.sweetvenues.com