People, Places & Things is a gripping and intense piece from the get go. Jeremy Herrin directs an intoxicating piece that exhilarates and stimulates, with an intoxicating sense of freedom, as boundaries are pushed and themes of addiction are explored. The story captures real society and real people. Leading lady, Emma played by Lisa Dwyer Hogg is exceptional, conveying an abundance of emotions that leave the spectator lost in her world. What seems to be a proscenium arch stage soon turns into a mirror effect, with the play unfolding whilst we watch from two sides. We lose ourselves for a moment, wondering if it is our reflection, part of the play, or more spectators about to embark on this unpredictable and intense experience.
The minimalist set leaves room for the interpretation and imagination, with a clinical white highlighted throughout. Large props come and go, helping to set the scene, but still the undertone of a medical institution is felt. There is a realistic approach in regards to the acting style and a script filled with chaos and madness ensures it is a dramatic spectacular on stage. Not only is the play highly visual, but sensory. Reflected in the phenomenal artistic choices with lighting and sound, we tantalisingly see, feel and hear Emma’s world and experience some of the emotions, the highs and the lows that addiction can do.
The piece provides a chilling realisation that addiction is present in the here and now and feel fascinatingly intrusive as the highly emotional and complex relationships are played out; morbid captivation kicks in and we have adrenaline for more. We are made aware that here in the theatre the dialogue will end, the story will finish and there will be an applause, but there is an eerie and eye opening realisation that out in the real world someone's addiction is only just beginning. We take characters in the play for granted to later find out they have died, which very much feels like a reflection of people and life today in the 21st century.
The ending of the play is compelling, questioning the entire play. Did we really just go on Emma’s journey? Are we now moving on to someone else? Or is this a play within a play? Did we just watch an Actor play the part of an Actor who was an addict or an Actor just telling a story? A powerful ending, that begs the question, if living in a make believe world is easier and better for some than real life, how can one ever get back to reality? - Rebecca Phillipson