Thursday, 3 September 2015

REVIEW: People Places and Things, National Theatre


ADDICTION and the trauma it brings to the lives of those it affects is the subject of a new play by Duncan Macmillan.
People, Places And Things is being staged at the Dorfman at the National Theatre and to say it is a rollercoaster of a journey for both the actors and the audience would be somewhat of an understatement.
Brilliantly directed by Jeremy Herrin it stars Denise Gough as Emma, although she could be Nina, Lucy or Sarah, we are never really sure.
She is an actress and an addict of both drugs and alcohol. When we first meet her she is struggling, without success, to maintain her career and crucifying a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull.
Soon after she's checked herself into rehab but is instantly suspicious of the 12-step programme it offers to help her get clean.
Immediately she is confrontational, aggressive, opinionated and hostile to the treatment she needs in order to stay alive, spars verbally with the doctor and refuses to share her experiences in the group therapy sessions.
Throughout she is a contradiction - veering between absolute clarity of her situation and a refusal to be herself, lying about her name and whether or not she had a brother.
In between times she goes through the horrors of hallucinations and seizures in her bid to rid her body of the poison of the various drugs she has put into her system.
In these awful moments, music blares, lights shine blindingly and the stage is full of Emmas, spiralling out of control and showing how ferocious the cleansing process is.
By the end not only had Emma been spat out of the system, it felt we had all been put through the wringer as well. The scene in which she comes back to stay at her parents' home was particularly poignant and emotional - they could neither forgive or forget what she had done to both herself and to them.
Denise Gough puts in quite an extraordinary performance - physical and mental - and is never off the stage. She is well supported by the rest of the cast, in particular Barbara Marten as the Doctor, Therapist and Emma's mother and Nathaniel Martello-White as Mark, who sees through her and becomes her allay.
It is a stunning production all round.

People, Places and Things is on at the National Theatre until November 4. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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