By Duncan MacMillan
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Presented by Headlong, National Theatre, Home & Exeter Northcott
14th – 18th November 2017
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
This production began with the addict-actress character Emma (Lisa Dwyer Hogg) playing the role of Nina in Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’. Then, in a sudden transformation, she is seen in a nightclub worse for wear, before putting herself into a rehab facility to help cure her so-called addiction to drugs and drink and playing other people.
The most spectacular scene, which almost resembled a nightmare which she has experienced, due to her hedonistic lifestyle and the cold turkey she is experiencing, occurred when multiple Emmas emerge from out of the walls, the floor and her bed.
What irked me was the way the therapists, doctors, etc. is some ways regarded Emma as a pitiful figure and to be condemned for her desire for an addictive lifestyle. Who are they to judge such people? Maybe they themselves have addictions of different forms – endless shopping trips, social media, constant television watching, pornography or a desire to endlessly eat junk food.
Another notable scene was the participatory sessions, where peoiple in the rehab centre sat around trying to empathise with one another’s woes and problems in dealing with life, which, for an increasing amount of people, is becoming more stressful.
Despite Hogg’s impressive performance in the central role of Emma, there were a number of weak performances by other actors, notably Matilda Ziegler, who played the triple parts of doctor, therapist and Emma’s mum.
She constantly gave a weak vocal delivery. You would expect a doctor or therapist in such an institution, dealing with people with life-changing difficulties, to project a stronger personality.
A feature I have never seen before at the Playhouse was the siting of part of the audience at the back of the stage. The reason being, I am given to understand, is that it created a sort of ‘compressed traverse stage effect.’
It did not have that effect on me!