'Powerful. Provocative. Thrilling. Denise Gough is stunning" Rachel Halliburton
"A bold, timely and searching play" Sarah Hemming
"A triumph – Denise Gough delivers an emotionally shattering performance" Henry Hitchings
It's rare to see a group of critics, cynical devils that we are, rise to their feet for a sweeping standing ovation on a press night. But this wasn’t any old opening, or any old leading actress. For my money, Denise Gough gives the greatest stage performance since Mark Rylance in Jerusalem as Emma, an actress addicted to drink and drugs.
Duncan Macmillan’s gruellingly honest look at the rehab process was a sell-out smash at the National last autumn and its hugely deserved West End transfer cleverly recreates the intimacy of the National’s smallest auditorium, the Dorfman. Rows of seating on stage bring the audience closer to the action and also generate a compelling sense of there being no escape, for either us or Emma. We first see Emma going spectacularly to pieces as Nina in The Seagull; next thing we know, she’s in the reception of a rehab clinic, snorting a line of coke.
The arc of the character, and thus of Gough’s remarkable, truthful performance, is awe-inspiring and utterly convincing: from the chaos of addiction to the anger and bewilderment of new sobriety to, finally, a profoundly moving acceptance of flawed humanity. If all this sounds a little daunting, take heart: Macmillan’s lovely writing is never less than slyly humorous and Gough certainly knows how to deliver a funny line. There’s a cherishable running gag about how the doctors in the clinic, all played by the excellent Barbara Marten, resemble Emma’s mum. When we eventually meet mum, she’s Marten too.
It’s a supremely confident and well-oiled production from director Jeremy Herrin, with a fluid acting ensemble. There is absolutely no doubt that Gough is the person, Wyndham’s the place and this play the thing to see this spring.
Author: Fiona Mountford
A heady cocktail of fantasy and reality. Transfixing.
People, Places and Things is an intoxicating new play about surviving the modern world. Written by Duncan Macmillan (Lungs) and directed by Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall).
This play tells the story of Emma, who was having the time of her life until she finds herself 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?
This is a collaboration between Headlong and the National Theatre, following the acclaimed Earthquakes in London and The Effect.