People, Places and Things
Reviewed on Friday 6th October 2017 by Sebastian Singh
People, Places and Things at HOME, Manchester.
Thrilling, bold and brave, People Places and Things is a modern masterpiece. Written by Duncan MacMillan (1984, Every Brilliant Thing), we follow Emma, an actress, who has checked herself into rehab. Her first step towards recovery is to admit that she has a problem; but the problem is with everything else and the truth is so hard to distinguish. In the modern world, intoxication seems the easiest way to survive, will she be able to find and face the truth?
Duncan Macmillan balances the serious and dark side of drug abuse and its effects, with humour and friendships that make it easier for an audience to connect and engage with the characters. Directed by Headlong Artistic Director Jeremy Herrin and assistant directed by Holly Race Roughan, this production is one of the best out there.
The use of traverse staging really immerses the audience in the experience: by having a small number of audience on stage facing the main body of seats, the audience are forced to consider their role in society and the reflection of these characters onto themselves. The framing of the stage is the same on both sides and is like a window, where hospital officials look through and see how patients are doing: it is both intrusive and inviting and works incredibly effectively.
The set design by Olivier and Tony Award winning designer Bunny Christie (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) is once again stunning. Initially, it is an empty stage with white tiled walls and floors, replicating a clinic room: then we are thrown into this world and intricately hidden doors and cupboards appear. This set has the flexibility to be so many different rooms and places and alongside a great lighting design (James Farncombe) and soundscape (Matthew Herbert and Tom Gibbons), the scenes are brought to life spectacularly.
The contributions of the whole cast make the play real; engrossed in the main storyline of one character, we see glimpses into other people’s lives and these actors also multi-role to help tell Emma’s story in a better way. Andrew Sheridan as Mark is very engaging and likeable; he is that friend who always tells you the truth and only asks for honesty in return; it was a very believable and gutsy performance.
Matilda Ziegler played the Doctor, Group Leader and Mum and did some great multi-rolling between these characters. The detail of each individual character was always clear but there was also the allowance to have similar characteristics between them all, allowing the audience to consider how certain people echo throughout your life in different guises.
However, it is Lisa Dwyer Hogg as Emma, who carries this show on her shoulders and is utterly spellbinding. Act Two was a tour de force and the audience felt the enlightenment with her and were willing her to overcome the battles that she faced. Lisa Dwyer Hogg was bold, beautiful and utterly heart-wrenching: her ability to captivate an audience was incredible to watch and her final monologue was breath-taking!
This is a production that you are unlikely to forget- if you only see one play this year, choose this!
People, Places and Things is touring the UK until 25th November 2017.