PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS
by Duncan Macmillan.
Dorfman Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 4 November 2015.
2.30pm 8, 19, 22 Sep, 8, 10, 31 Oct, 3, 4 Nov.
7.30pm 7-10, 17-19, 21-23 Sep, 1-3. 5-10, 12, 29-31 Oct, 2, 3 Nov.
Audio-described 9 Oct, 10 Oct 2.30pm(+ Touch Tour).
Captioned 6 Oct, 2 Nov.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 2 September.
Addiction drama from an addictive playwright.
Duncan Macmillan has become one of British theatre’s most prized, sought-after playwrights. Compassionate, wide-ranging, his recent plays have included subjects on depression (Every Brilliant Thing), fertility (Lungs) and climate change (2071), whilst his adaptation and co-direction of George Orwell’s1984 for Headlong Theatre carried all before it.
Now, Macmillan turns his attention to another problem of our age, addiction. Daily headlines highlight the social chaos caused by alcohol and drug abuse. Macmillan chooses to focus directly on one individual, Emma, and those immediately around her.
And it is a `her’. More, it is a `her’ who happens to be an actress, thereby introducing a fascinating meditation on addiction as not only a desire to live life intensely but also the seldom-voiced connection between acting and addiction, of playing `another’ and its consequent loss of identity – though Macmillan doesn’t quite grapple with which comes first. Do actors become actors because of lack of identity? Or the other way round?
Even so, this is a graphic, often harrowing account of life inside rehab and its personal inter-actions. The title is taken from Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step programme and so authentic is Macmillan’s depiction of Emma’s journey, one can’t help wondering if the author has drawn on personal experience.
Be that as it may, more importantly, Macmillan, with current Headlong director Jeremy Herrin, has delivered a play and production that stun in their capacity to create the hallucinatory nature of rehab with its medically-induced multiple personalities, its group therapies and in Emma’s case, aggressive resistance to recovery.
Within a white-tiled wrap-around setting, Herrin’s cast, led by Denise Gough as Emma, stir up extraordinary visceral intensity and humour – bluntly contrasted with the outside reality of Emma’s homecoming when, armed with a practised speech of apology and confession, she is confronted by the hard facts of parents too traumatised by the past to easily forgive or change.
Gough’s is a performance of gut-wrenching, luminous honesty but Barbara Marten also supplies a superbly nuanced trio of roles as the unit Doctor/Therapist and Mother, with an ensemble every one of whom are vital to the sum of the whole.
Emma: Denise Gough.
Paul/Dad: Kevin McMonagle.
Doctor/Therapist/Mum: Barbara Marten.
Mark: Nathaniel Martello-White.
Foster: Alistair Cope.
Meredith/Ensemble: Sally George.
T/Ensemble: Jacob James Beswick.
Jodi/Ensemble: Jacqui Dubois.
Shaun/Ensemble: Nari Blair-Mangat.
Laura/Ensemble: Laura Woodward.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Costume: Christina Cunningham.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Music: Matthew Herbert.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Video /Projections:: Andrzej Goulding.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Dialect coach: Richard Ryder.
World premiere in the Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre, London, 1 September 2015.