This production goes from strength to strength. Yesterday evening (fourth performance of six), we had a small group of people in the audience who were in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse, and after the show, most of them stayed for the discussion. The absolute honesty and integrity demanded of recovering addicts by their recovery programmes worked a step-change in the level of these discussions. With no effort wasted in dressing up what they were saying, they started talking with an almost painful sincerity about how truthful the performances had been, and how accurately all the cast had depicted the individual roles associated with addiction. The brief glimpses they gave us of their lives would break your heart, were it not for their absolute insistence that pity was not an option. What they needed, and what our society desperately needs, is understanding and compassion. Understanding that addiction is an illness, and that it can strike anywhere and anybody, whatever their background, whatever their social position, whatever their job, whatever their age. Compassion and understanding for those who suffer. They said that from our performance we had clearly understood this, and given a truthful account of a play written by somebody who equally clearly understood it. One of them said ‘All of us here will leave feeling better than when we came in’.
Add to that the discussion after the first night when, amongst others, three mental-health professionals spoke of how truthful and honest the play and our production of it were. Many other people in all the discussions who spoke of how they had some direct experience of what the play was talking about. For me, as the director, it puts into perspective any minor comments made about the ‘strong language’ used in the play. The truthfulness of what we are doing, and what Polly Stenham is saying, over-rides all that.
I want to praise every member of this cast for the work they have done. At this level of performance the focus, energy and emotional exposure demanded is very great. Every single member of this cast has unflinchingly faced all this and come through brilliantly. Peter Reay asked me the other evening what I felt about the production, and I have to say that of all the productions I have worked on, this is the one that I am most satisfied with, the one I’d be happy to say ‘I worked on that show’. There’s a caveat of course, there always is. When you are touching people as we are in this play, you have to do it with care. We’re not putting on an hour or so of light entertainment here, we’re touching people’s lives and to some extent helping to change them. That demands integrity. Everyone working on this show has shown that level of sincerity and integrity over and over again.
When people ask me why I do this work, I would point to the recovering addicts, what they had to say and the way they said it, and I would answer that that is why I do it.
So a very heart-felt thank you to Marnie, Peter, Sam, Jess, India and Hattie. And to Ann, Elaine, Trish, Judith and Andy. And to everyone else involved in this production. We always say stuff like that at the end of every show. This time I mean every word.
And thank you to the Swan Theatre who had the insight and courage to let us do it!