The world of theatre is not for everyone, and often people are given the impression that it’s all jazz hands and Shakespeare. Whilst of course it does include these things, the truth is, live performance offers much more than that. Beyond the commercial and touristic shows, there is lots of experimenting and ambitious work going on. Ketamine: The Musical, by the House of Yes, is a great example of this. An entire musical based around Ket. What could be better?
The musical is a unique and innovative production that tells the story of ketamine, a powerful and controversial drug that has garnered attention for its use in medicine, veterinary care, and recreational settings. Does it support the substance? Or is it against it? Let’s find out more.
Political Musical Theatre
If you’re not a big fan of musical theatre, then it might come as a surprise to you that a lot of its history has been steeped in political activism. You only have to look at some of the greatest musicals ever written to see that. Rent, written by Jonathan Larson and performed in the 90s, was one of the first full-scale productions to tackle the 80’s AIDS crisis with any real conviction. Not only did it have a highly diverse cast, but it also highlighted that the crisis had affected everyone (black or white, gay or straight).
Or what about Cabaret? This was originally a 1966 production, which explored the Nazi’s effects on the liberal and expressive Kit Kat Club in Berlin. This musical is one of the greatest ever, and it tackles incredibly difficult issues in a somewhat beautiful way. Whilst of course there are many musicals out there that avoid politics all together, many of the greats have powerful messages. Onstage writes:
“The theatre is a way of broadcasting the playwright’s opinions to a mass audience… their views are being expressed through art because this is the best way they know how to influence people. Theatre makes a mark on us whether we like it or not”
Whilst art is not the same as litigious change, it can definitely be the catalyst for it. People have debated the power of expression for centuries, and they will continue to do so, but there is no doubt that a powerful live performance can change the world. At least, that’s what Jack Black says in School of Rock. I think we can all trust Jack Black. Therefore, when you hear that there’s a musical based around the substance of ketamine, it does beg the question whether it could somewhat be attempting to change the public’s overall view on the topic.
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Views on Ketamine
Ketamine is a popular party drug, much like cocaine and ecstasy. However, it is a depressant and thus has very different effects. It is known to cause people to feel dissociated, less anxious, euphoric and numb. One of the main reasons people enjoy the substance is that it takes away crippling anxiety, allowing them to enjoy social occasions. Whilst this drug has been critiqued for a long time, ketamine as a substance has been reevaluated recently. Although it has, for many years, been used in anesthetic medicine for animals and humans, its benefits on mental health issues has been essentially ignored.
In addition, the recreational use of ketamine is often demonized, but is nevertheless very popular. But in recent times, professionals have noted that ketamine can seriously help tackle depression and anxiety. In fact, both the US and the UK are now allowing clinical trials to experiment with how the substance can assist people. There is no doubt that we are now at a critical moment, where ketamine may finally be allowed to help people. Thus, it’s no surprise that Ketamine: The Musical would appear in New York now.
Ketamine: The Musical
This show – in a sense – is a theatrical version of the overall experience of consuming ketamine. Ketamine: the Musical, by House of Yes, is a provocative and immersive production that explores the complex and controversial world of the specific substance, a powerful drug with a diverse range of uses and effects. The musical, which is produced by the renowned House of Yes theatre company in Brooklyn, New York, tells the story of ketamine through a blend of music, dance, and acting, creating a unique and compelling experience for audiences.
This company is known for their bold and ambitious work, taking the audience out of reality and into a different world. Supposedly the show was first envisioned whilst the group were acting usually outlandish at a festival and a bystander said: what is this? Ketamine the musical?’. This was the beginning of what would become something remarkably brilliant. The website writes:
“This show is an immersive, participatory, psychoactive and dissociative spectacle. You will not be able to unsee, unhear or unfeel the things that you will see, hear and feel. Profound and numbing, time will stand still as circus, dance, balloons, horses, clowns, sugar and music swallows you hole. You will be educated and entertained. You will leave a changed human being… Enter the hole.”
The K hole, as many will know, is what happens to you when you take too much ketamine. For a brief moment, you lose a sense of reality altogether. This show explores that exact moment. The musical begins with a brief history of ketamine, which was first synthesized in 1962 by a team of scientists at Parke-Davis, a pharmaceutical company. The drug was initially developed as an anesthetic for use in humans and animals, and it quickly gained popularity due to its fast-acting and relatively mild side effects. As the musical progresses, it delves into the many uses of ketamine, including its role in treating depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. It also examines the drug’s potential for abuse and the ongoing debate surrounding its use in the medical field.
What makes it Great?
One of the standout features of Ketamine: The Musical is its use of music to convey the various themes and emotions explored in the production. The music ranges from upbeat and energetic to introspective and poignant, reflecting the multifaceted nature of ketamine and its effects on the human psyche. The musical features an original score that incorporates a variety of musical styles, including electronic, rock, and pop, to create a dynamic and engaging soundtrack.
In addition to the music, the show also includes a talented cast of actors and dancers who bring the story to life through their performances. The choreography is particularly impressive, with intricate and visually stunning dance sequences that complement the music and further enhance the overall experience. As the musical reaches its climax, it explores the darker side of ketamine, including its potential for abuse and the consequences that can result from using the drug recreationally.
However, despite its heavy subject matter, ketamine: The Musical by House of Yes manages to maintain a sense of hope and positivity throughout. It encourages audiences to think critically about the role of ketamine in society and to consider the potential risks and benefits of using the drug. It goes against the one dimensional, war-on-drugs approach that is so often encouraged, and instead brings balance and nuance. Mix Mag writes:
“Ketamine: The Musical is centered around a protagonist on his journey through the many phases of being high on K. The play opens with a big bag of ket floating over the crowd, with a clown dressed in all white ripping open the bag and sprinkling it all over a woman.”
The show perfectly finds the balance of ketamine – highlighting its surrealness, benefits and problems. The truth is that the outdated War on Drugs is over – it has not helped anyone. It is time for fair, educated and nuanced debates. This musical evidently highlights this brilliantly.
If you’re someone that wants to see some wacky, experimental and thought-provoking theatre, then this musical is unmissable. Overall, this entertaining production offers a unique perspective on a controversial and often misunderstood substance. Ketamine deserves to be re-evaluated. This musical promotes this sentiment.
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