DramaNorth WestReview

People, Places & Things – Liverpool Playhouse

Writer: Duncan Macmillan
Director: Jeremy Herrin and Holly Race Roughan
Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

The biggest dangers to a recovering addict are the People, Places & Things. This is according to writer Duncan Macmillan’s play. Our friends, family, environment and circumstances can have a massive impact on someone struggling with their inner-demons and set them on a course of action they may never return from.

Focusing on a self-destructive, drug and alcohol-riddled actor, Emma: she is struggling to hold things together, getting hammered at any given opportunity to numb the pain of a cruel world in which she feels she has no place and contributes nothing towards.

Opening with a shambolic performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull, we see the fragile Emma have a heart-breaking melt-down on stage which leads her to check into a rehab facility in an attempt to get clean, not before one last line of cocaine and a few choice words for her mum.

As Emma, or Nina, or Sarah, begins her treatment, she learns that it may not be as easy as she thought it would be and that her road to recovery begins and ends with the truth: that the various personas she adopts won’t help her, only hinder. During Emma’s recovery, we are introduced to various therapists, doctors and patients who despite initial clashes with our protagonist are all on hand to offer guidance and support.

From time to a time a production comes along that just about gets everything bang on the money: People, Places & Things, is most certainly one of these productions. Macmillan’s script is sharp, on-point, at times gut-wrenching and brutal in its portrayal of not just addiction, but that feeling of isolation and failure. It has some razor-sharp dialogue and disarming one-liners which certainly break the tension. References to North Korea and Brexit, give it the fresh, contemporary feel, and remind us of an anxiety we can all relate to.

Lisa Dwyer Hogg as Emma gives a truly mesmerising, powerful performance: she is ever present throughout the 2 ½ hour running time, her intensity levels never dwindle, as she brings pathos, warmth and humour to Emma: we see her character transform from a spoilt brat teenager, into a brave woman who despite her flaws will continue to battle her demons and a world willing to knock her back down again and again.

Hogg is supported by a good solid cast: Andrew Sheridan as Mark, Ekow Quartey as Foster, Matilda Ziegler, in a triple role of Mum, Doctor, and Therapist Lydia all bring a steely-world beaten, honesty to their performance, that is sprinkled with blackly comedic, dead-pan delivery. However, this could be said of all the cast, it’s just that these are the more prominent roles.

The direction from Jeremy Herrin and Holly Race Roughan, is faultless: they certainly get the best from the actors and the modern set design from Bunny Christie. You can certainly see the influence of Christie’s previous work on The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Night-Time, on this production, which certainly enhances the play but at times is a little distracting in its similarity.

Looming over proceeding is claustrophobic and unsettling soundtrack by Matthew Herbert working in harmony with Tom Gibbons sound design: you cannot escape it and its presence is felt throughout, not even during the interval!

This is fascinating, thought-provoking production, a modern day One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, minus the Chief, and with more of an upbeat ending, it’s well worth catching at the Playhouse.

Runs until 18 November 2017 | Image: Johan Persson

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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