Theatre Review: PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS – HOME, Manchester

The cast of PEOPLE. PLACES & THINGS. Photo: by Johan Persson

The cast of PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS.                                                               Image Credit: Johan Persson

If you only see one play this year, make sure it’s PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS

When Duncan Macmillan’s PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS first made its premiere at the National Theatre in 2015, the theatre world went wild. The tragi-comic play about addiction and recovery received five star reviews in the press, enjoying sold-out performances at the National Theatre and in London’s West End, as well as award-recognition. Two years later, the intoxicating new play heads out on a national tour, opening at Manchester’s HOME for a week long-run.

PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS tells the story of “Emma”, a thirtysomething actress with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. To save her future work-prospects, Emma checks herself into a rehabilitation centre but is resistant to fall in line with the clinic’s rules and share her personal story. Telling the truth is difficult when you lie for a living and when intoxication feels like the only way to survive the modern world, how can she ever sober up?

Bold, thrilling and utterly absorbing, PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS is, quite simply, a brilliant piece of modern theatre. Jeremy Herrin’s fast-paced production rapidly spins through terror and rage, giving the audience a sense of what it might be like to experience a high one minute and withdrawal the next, while Macmillan’s exquisitely painful script finds humour in the most desperate of situations.

Bunny Christie’s sterile, clinical and bright white set literally comes to life on stage, as people, places and things appear out of walls, floor and even Emma’s bed. James Farncombe’s lighting design and Tom Gibbons’ terrifying sound design equally impress, unleashing a barrage of light and sound to convey Emma’s delusions and add to the woozy sense of disorientation.

Lisa Dwyer Hogg delivers an emotionally shattering performance as Emma, the raging addict caught between wrath and terror. The supporting cast is equally excellent, particularly Matilda Ziegler as Emma’s doctor, therapist and mother and Andrew Sheridan as a fellow addict Mark.

But what makes PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS truly special is that it is much more than just a play about the power and horror of addiction – it’s a play about surviving in the modern world. Macmillan’s brilliant script – which even brings Manchester subtly into the storyline – takes the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions, from comedy to heartbreak, revealing the subtle addictions and roles we are all guilty of adopting in order to deflect the truth.

If you only see one play this year, make sure it’s PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS. You won’t regret it.

5 out of 5 stars

PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS runs at HOME, Manchester until 7 October 2017