(Seen at the afternoon performance on 26th March 2016).
Possibly the most truthful and acutely observed play running in the West End
at the moment. The beauty and strength come from the accuracy of each detail of
character behaviour, the minute changes and the unflinching story arc which
always refuses even the slightest hint of invention or embellishment of a
situation to please the audience.
Rough and raw, we not only hear and observe, but director Herrin, writer
Macmillan and production company Headlong
find a means to actually peer inside
leading character Emma's skull, visualising what is going on, in a number of
breathtaking sequences (company pictures, above). Denise Gough (main picture,
top of page) handles this trauma with a career-defining
emotional range - attitude, weakness, despair and heart-breaking redemption.
Hair flying, arms waving, fingers pointing and mind always, always spinning at
blurring speed, one only hopes her performance will be recorded for posterity,
and seen by as many new actors as possible.
And yet, and yet... hers is not the deepest nor most impressive performance
on the stage.
Barbara Marten's years of experience allow her to not just create,
but actually become the Doctor, Therapist and mother her script requires. The
soundness of her characterisation allows perfectly the raw energy of Ms Gough to
rebound and amplify their every scene, helping beyond doubt Ms Gough to those
Nathaniel Martello-White as an addict turned assistant and Kevin McMonagle as addict and father
(pictured above with Ms Gough, Mr Martello-White right, Mr McMonagle centre) both find similar huge acting range in their
characters. McMonagle in particular is versatile, with an adaptability in his
physical presence used to stunning effect in the latter part of the play.
With notes to of Laura Woodward, Sally Dubois, Sally George and Nari Blair-Mangat
as members of the therapy group, and Alistair Cope as Foster, for the vital
support they bring to the proceedings, and physical work required, this is an
ensemble of the finest quality.
People, places and things that may trigger a relapse are to be avoided by
addicts. Theatre addicts must not, however, avoid this under any circumstances.
The monkey's socks are still on the theatre's chandelier, blown there by the
impressiveness (it's a word, OK) of it all. Yours may well join them.
Photo credit: all photographs on this page: Johan Persson, used by kind