Book Review: The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Anthony Neilson)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads


Publisher: Methuen Drama

Pages: 120

Release Date: December 19th 2013

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lisa Jones is on a journey. It’s a colourful and exciting off-kilter trip in search of one lost hour that has tipped the balance of her life. The inhabitants of the wonderful world she finds herself in – Dissocia – are a curious blend of the funny, the friendly and the brutal.

Produced originally for the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, The Wonderful World of Dissocia wowed critics and audiences alike. This Modern Classics edition cements the status of this hugely original play, both magical and moving, that confirmed Anthony Neilson as one of major voices in contemporary British Theatre.

As Neilson himself put it, ‘If you like Alice in Wonderland but there’s not enough sex and violence in it, then Dissocia is the show for you’.


When our #RandomReads theme this month was picked as plays, I knew almost immediately what I wanted Stacie to read (I had a slight wobble towards something else but it was really only ever this play).My review is going to be pretty positive as this is one of my favourite plays, although I am trying to be balanced/think a little critically. (It also may be a little spoilery, so this is your warning!) I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on this one so it’ll be interesting to know Stacie’s take on it.

As the quote above says: ‘If you like Alice in Wonderland but there’s not enough sex and violence in it, then Dissocia is the show for you’.

Dissocia does have some elements that remind me of Alice in Wonderland: there’s a lot of clever word play, a lot of weird logic on things that shouldn’t make sense but somehow do and a whole host of kooky characters. But while Alice can seem a little sinister in places, Dissocia takes this to a whole new level, the most disturbing of which is a ‘scapegoat’ who wants to rape Lisa.

Sitting down and reading this, rather acting it out as I did last time was a really different experience. I felt I appreciated some of the jokes more as I could see them on the page, while others I didn’t find as funny as they needed the delivery to make it work.

The second half of Dissocia is really where the message comes through, and probably because of this, can be the bit people dislike. After having such a wild ride in the first act, it can be very sobering to come back in and find a hospital setting, with poor Lisa feeling ill and not wanting to take her medication.

It’s a bit of an in-your-face message but I think it works. The second half makes me feel uncomfortable, it bores me sometimes. You can understand why Lisa would want to leave off the meds and spend some time in wild and fun Dissocia.

Since I first read this play in school, around 7 years ago, it has been my favourite play, and I think it always will be. It’s incredibly fun to read and watch, makes me laugh out loud, and also has a strong message on mental health behind it, a topic that needs to be talked about more.

Check out Stacie’s review here

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