To describe a play in a few words is always a challenge, yet to do that for National Theatre’s collaborative work with HeadLong, People, Places and Things, now showing at Wyndham Theatre, is somewhat of an easy task. For the audience, it’s like a slap in the face and a massive wake-up call to the theatre world of what sublime theatre really looks like.
Last year, it was first shown at the National’s Dorfman Theatre; it’s West End transfer speaks well deserving volumes about the beast of a staging vision, creative script and courageous cast it has. The disturbing, uncomforting nausea that was experienced in Jeremy Herrin’s 1984 5-star production has been replicated here, so much so that you’ll want to stop drinking alcohol, or give up any form of attachment you may have, whether it be cigarettes, biting your nails, peanut butter or people.
Nina, Sarah and Emma are the names of our drug and alcohol addict. It’s the multiple names for an actress in utter disarray. She confuses the characters she plays on stage with her off-stage life, and you can experience it for yourself. The hallucinations, black outs, self-doubt, rapid speed of speech and loud, irritating ringing noises that sting in your head like a filthy migraine. This is firm material masterfully brought together by creative geniuses including writer; Duncan Macmillan, Tom Gibbon; sound designer, and set design, Bunny Christie.
The production’s beaming star, Denise Gough plugs away in to our addict with sheer authenticity. She becomes the single most important focal point of the stage – in fact, she becomes the audience’s addiction. Fuelled by energy and intense charisma, her performance strength is so spot-on that you’ll want to lean forward, get off your seat, just, so you can get closer to her and the highly stimulated stage. It is no wonder that she won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress 2015.
Barbara Marten is also stellar on stage as the charismatic rehab doctor, professional therapist and unforgiving mother. The rest of the cast are bright eyed and theatrically armed, complementary to Gough’s depiction of Emma’s warped and idealistic attitude, where hallucinogens and dangerous substances are the only routes to happiness.
Yet it may be close to home for many who have undergone rehab treatment, watched a loved one go through it or even tried to get rid of a guilty pleasure themselves, but that isn’t a good enough excuse to not see this show! Besides, a play that mentally challenges and physically affects you – good or bad – is a winner.
People, Places and Things is sharp, immersive, shocking and physically sickening. Still, it has scenes of pathos and wittiness too, that will make you think you had a diploma in existential philosophy. The intensity is palpable – your gut may start turning and you may need to cover your ears – but you’ll learn a lot. So stop wasting time and book a ticket for you and a friend before it completely sells out.
Review by Mary Nguyen
People, Places and Things
Fresh from an acclaimed sold-out season in the Dorfman Theatre, this new production will transfer to the Wyndham’s Theatre for 12 weeks only from 15 March 2016.
An intoxicating new play about surviving the modern world. Written by Duncan Macmillan (1984) and directed by Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall).
Emma was having the time of her life. Now she’s in rehab.
Her first step is to admit that she has a problem. But the problem isn’t with Emma, it’s with everything else. She needs to tell the truth. But she’s smart enough to know that there’s no such thing.
When intoxication feels like the only way to survive the modern world, how can she ever sober up?
People, Places and Things is the latest collaboration between Headlong and the National, following the acclaimed Earthquakes in London and The Effect.
The National Theatre and Headlong co-production of PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS
by Duncan Macmillan | directed by Jeremy Herrin | set designed by Bunny Christie | costumes designed by Christina Cunningham | lighting by James Farncombe. Produced at the Wyndham’s Theatre
Cast: Denise Gough, Jacob James Beswick, Nari Blair-Mangat, Alistair Cope, Jacqui Dubois, Sally George, Kevin McGonagle, Nathaniel Martello-White, Barbara Marten, Laura Woodward, Charlotte Gascoyne, David Rubin.
Booking Until: 4th June 2016
Important Information: People, Places and Things contains some strong language, strobe-like lighting effects and short complete lighting blackouts in the auditorium.
People, Places and Things
32-36 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H