Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Wall Of Addiction

Brett Pomfrey
Link Centre, Oldham
18 August 2016 to 19 August 2016

KeyRing, a charity that works with vulnerable adults in the community, has been delivering services in Oldham for 15 years. One of their recent initiatives was their Recovery Network, working specifically with people who had been in addiction and experienced trauma in their lives but are now clean and sober.

This powerful and moving play, written and directed by Brett Pomfrey, has come out of that initiative, and the fact that it’s actually performed and produced by people who have successfully gone through recovery from addiction only adds to its dramatic effectiveness.

As you might expect, it has the undeniable ring of authenticity, not least in some non family-friendly language. But there’s an urgency to its truthfulness that would put a few professional companies to shame, while the sadness and desperation is tempered with an unexpected humour. It’s emphasised from the outset that addiction can often be fatal and its consequences are messy, so you know that the ending is unlikely to be happy or neat, yet there’s even a certain joy to be found in the heartfelt journey of the characters.

It opens with four very different clients finding themselves all trying to abstain from drugs and alcohol in an addiction detox facility. It’s not the first time in this place for superficially bubbly Elaine (Elaine Smith), an addict who blames herself for the deaths of her children; drug-dealer Daz (James Northend), whose mouthiness hides his years of abuse as a child; or Jimmy (Colin Jones), who for years has self-medicated his post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining them is Dan (Glenn Cosgrove), a gay man whose life spiralled out of control with substance abuse after the death of his partner.

Helping them combat their demons are support worker Russ (Daniel Brooks) and group facilitator Derrick (Kev McDermott), who both have their own history with addiction and trauma, as does visiting ex-client David (David Yoxall), while Doctor Harris (Philomena Whelan) deals with their more physical problems.

Some of the players, most notably Elaine Smith, take to the (small and slightly rickety) stage more readily than others, but that’s pretty inevitable, and in this context it actually adds to the overall emotional impact of the production to see them supporting each other so generously.

Reviewer: Kevin Bourke