This play is going to be “emotionally expensive” predicted director Jeremy Herrin on Friday afternoon. After a week of intense discussion, tears and laughter, talking about addiction around a table in the National Theatre’s rehearsal space, that is certainly how many of us felt.
Addiction can be a hard-hitting subject. We learnt this week how addiction is ‘indiscriminate in its victims’. It is extremely difficult to recover from; statistics show that 50% of addicts will relapse at least once after recovery. Addiction affects two million people currently living in the UK. We found that almost everyone had a story of addiction, making the rehearsal room an intense yet extraordinary space.
The 12 Steps, traditionally associated with alcoholics, is now a commonly used treatment for most addictions. It is used in rehabilitation centres (such as the one in our play) and usually combined with group therapy. Consequently much of this week was also about beginning to understand the 12 Steps and their seemingly lifesaving abilities.
We had a visit from psychotherapist Lennox Thomas who told us more about group therapy. He explained the challenges and gains of working as a group, and we were interested to learn that “groups often develop a character of their own” and sometimes unconsciously “enact situations like what a member’s family history was like”. This felt especially informative in relation to the protagonist Emma’s relationship with the therapist and the group in the play.
Often in a rehearsal process the first week is spent analysing the text around a table, answering questions like ‘what is the character trying to do to another character on this particular line?’ We discovered, however, that our conversations became far more general. Instead of scrutinizing the specific intentions of the text, we frequently found ourselves discussing addiction and life in macro terms, including a brief existential overview of postmodernism from our playwright, Duncan Macmillan.
Next week a visit to a rehabilitation centre in Catford awaits us, and a guest doctor from The Priory will be joining rehearsals. For Jeremy, next week is also about a gear change from a general discussion of the ideas raised by the play to a “practical sense of addressing this play as a bit of theatre”.