AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “Psychedelic psychodrama: Raising and expanding consciousness in Jane Arden’s The Other Side of the Underneath (1973),” by Sophia Satchell-Baeza. Abstract:
Jane Arden’s debut feature film The Other Side of the Underneath (1973) is an adaptation of the radical feminist play A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches (1971). In both the play and the later film, the all-female cast re-enact personal and archetypal situations using autobiographical material, which was collectively gathered from group therapy sessions led by the director. Psychedelic drugs were also consumed during the group therapy sessions. In this article, I will situate Arden’s distinct approach to performance in the film within the framework of psychodrama, focusing specifically on the role that psychedelic drugs play in unleashing performers’ repressed feelings of trauma, rage, and desire; these emotions are harnessed into a dynamic mode of performance that amplifies the cathartic possibilities of women’s speech. The film’s heady brew of radical feminist politics, group therapy, and countercultural self-actualisation is both challenging and contentious. I argue that Arden’s pursuit of consciousness liberation through psychodrama and psychedelics—in other words, through ‘raising’ and ‘expanding’ consciousness—is best understood as a concerted attempt to align countercultural and radical feminist tactics for unravelling repressive forms of social conditioning.