“A hugely hopeful experience”
Theatre-making terms like “verbatim” and “immersive” are all too frequently euphemisms for “lazy” and “misjudged”. Not in this case. Second Circle have created a beautiful piece of work that handsomely rewards forty-five minutes of your time. The concept is deceptively simple. In a Salvation Army meeting hall nestled opposite the Pleasance Courtyard, we take a seat in a circle of chairs arranged for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There is no special lighting, sound effects or set. We are simply there, experiencing in the raw the self-confrontation that is the AA hallmark. It is thrillingly unclear who is an audience member and who is an actor, and this creative tension gives the experience much of its zing and engagement. Throughout the meeting, different actors (giving superbly naturalistic performances) share their experiences of alcohol addiction. This allows the production to explore some powerfully emotive themes, from humanity’s self-destructive impulse, to the distinction between religious faith and ‘mere’ spirituality, and even the way that recovering addicts, despite having something so deep-rooted in common, are sometimes painfully at odds with each other. If all this sounds highly intellectual, it’s not. The issues are conveyed through feeling, not thought, and our attention is held throughout.
In a piece so resolutely about the need to overcome ego, it would be inappropriate to single out particular performances among the cast of eight. Irrelevant too, since they are uniformly fine. It is however worth saying that Hannah Samuels, who created, directed and performs in the show, announces herself here as a theatre-maker to watch. Also worth saying that, if the concept of the show sounds too ‘heavy’ for some, it’s actually a hugely hopeful experience. And this is for the simple reason that the show offers true hope: that which has been earned by a courageous, coruscating and necessary trip to the interior. All that’s left standing is truth.
Reviewer: Mark Farrelly (Seen 7th August)