In the words of one of its inmates, the patients at the Wellard State Hospital in New York don’t come to the hospital to die. They come “to be dead”.

The play puts the spotlight on life in a public institution as recently as 60 years ago. Patients were often committed on the flimsiest of evidence – or no evidence at all – and once admitted, the odds of ever being discharged were stacked against them.

Locked up for being an epileptic, for refusing an abortion, for depression, life became a routine of round the clock medication, electric shock treatment and latterly forced lobotomies for thousands.

This is a story that needs to be told and the first-year students from the Miskin Theatre at North Kent College immersed themselves in the bleak history of the institution and the stories uncovered from its records.

The actors – some as young as 16 and 17 – gave a mature performance full of imagination and realism that would have done credit to a professional cast.

From the story of Lawrence who was admitted the Wellard in his 50s when he began hearing voices and died in hospital aged 90 – many years after he ceased being delusional and who had carved a career of sorts digging graves for dead patients and wrapping their bodies.

And the story of a gifted photographer whose only weakness appeared to have been to suffer from convulsions along with a refusal to admit that he was mentally ill, the stories of the unfortunate inmates was vividly expressed and brought to life.

Much of the erratic behaviour leading to committal was caused by homelessness and abuse and is a reminder of many current problems facing society today. The adaptation from the original book by Laura White and Lucy Flack is superb and the choreography and presentation outstanding. Mesmerising.