First off, it should probably be acknowledged that there are noticeable similarities between this rather brilliant production and the National Theatre’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Not only with the striking set, again designed by Bunny Christie, but to some extent in the narrative structure too, where what’s happening inside the head of addict Emma (Lisa Dwyer Hogg) is often made manifest on stage while the rest of the cast become something akin to a Chorus.
That now said, this is a genuinely remarkable show. Ostensibly, it’s a play about addiction and recovery – and works extremely well as such – but there’s much more to it than that. It’s about trauma and its consequences, as well as a steely look at the cant about familial love and the nature of cults, even if they’re apparently helpful, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s also a play about the roles readily adopted by so many to help us make our way through the world, which makes it about the nature of acting and playwriting too. It’s full of spiky contrariness and denial yet it’s touchingly vulnerable and bitterly funny.
Brilliantly written by Duncan Macmillan, whose Monster was produced at Manchester’s Royal Exchange as a Bruntwood Prize runner-up and whose Paul Auster adaptation City Of Glass defied the ‘can’t be done on stage’ adage, it would be a lesser experience nonetheless without a startlingly good central performance by Dwyer Hogg as the actress and addict we first see ruining a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Unable to tell the difference between the story she’s in and her own increasingly chaotic life, she checks into rehab but tenaciously resists the best efforts of her therapists and fellow addicts, notably including Andrew Sheridan/Mark, who has done such fine work with our very own Manchester Theatre Award-winning company Monkeywood.
By Kevin Bourke, Theatre Editor
Main image by Johan Persson
People, Places & Things is at HOME, Manchester until October 7, 2017. For more information, click here.