City of vice Human frailty and vice is at the centre of some of the most exciting new plays this August. Yasmin Sulaiman sets up her own discussion group with the artists bringing addiction to the Edinburgh stage.
dinburgh is no stranger to addicts. In the 1980s, the number of drug addicts sharing HIV infected needles was so high that the city was informally known as the AIDS capital of Europe. And nearly two decades after the release of the book and film, the heroin addicts of Trainspotting are still among the city’s best loved fictional residents. At this year’s Fringe, Edinburgh will host a variety of new tales about living with addiction. Among them are It’s My Wonderful Life, in which an ex-cocaine addict talks about how Frank Capra’s seminal film has helped him stay clean, and Poison, a debut play by Ross Anderson about dealing with addiction in the family. One of the most anticipated is The Intervention, by Dave Florez, who won a Fringe First in 2011 for Somewhere Beneath It All, A Small Fire Burns Still. Set in Chicago, it’s about Zac, an alcoholic, and his family’s attempt to set him straight. The cast includes The Fast Show’s Arabella Weir, American improv legend Mike McShane and 2006 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Phil Nichol. “Dave and I are very similar,” says Nichol, who was the sole performer in Somewhere Beneath It All. “We have very similar ideas about how to make theatre very realistic, very audience friendly but also try and push the boundaries. The Intervention presents itself as a dark comedy about addictions and the cycle of abuse but what I like about Dave is that he doesn’t editorialise his characters. He just wants to tell stories and make them ring true.” The play is being staged by the Comedians Theatre Company who, after years of classics like 2006’s Talk Radio and 2009’s The School for Scandal, are finally establishing themselves as a purveyor of exciting original writing. And the emotional depth of addiction has given Nichol and Florez plenty to contemplate. “There’s incredible emotion behind it,” Nichol explains. “On the bad end of addiction, people can end up homeless and end up killing themselves. On the other end, some people become completely functional. Maybe yourself even; you don’t consider yourself to
54 fest edinburgh festival preview guide 2012
Right The Gambler Above The Intervention, a dark comedy about addictions Left Uncoupled focuses on the wife of a porn addict
be an addict because you get by every day but then you go home and drink a bottle and a half of red wine and don’t think anything of it. So the highs and the lows are extreme.” In The Gambler, a new work by international company Theatre Re, the highs and lows of gambling addiction are portrayed through physical theatre and mime. Guillaume Pigé, who founded the group and plays the eponymous gambler, says: “It’s about showing physically and visually all the turmoil, the whirlwind, the excitement, the thrill that is happening inside the head of the gambler. Because if you go to a casino or a betting shop, people are not moving much, nothing is happening on the outside. But inside, the fire is there, the energy is boiling and I think that’s where our job is, to actually show all of that and put it on stage.” The story begins with Edgar, an old man destroyed by his gambling habit, and then flashes back to his young self and charts the beginning of his addiction. Initially inspired by classic works of literature, including Dostoevsky’s The Gambler and Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, Pigé and the play’s writer Adam Taylor quickly realised that their story needed a dose of reality. “Everything we were doing was nice,” Pigé says. “We were telling a nice story and it was all very good but we were not exploring the depth and the dirtiness of the game and how it can destroy someone. And that’s when we started to get in touch with real gamblers and former gamblers from Gamblers Anonymous.” Although it took time to get GA members to speak to the company and offer feedback, their input was invaluable. “It was interesting to see the language they were using,” says Pigé, “the way they moved, the way they’re always instable. The game is always there in their head, always with them. I think they could go back any minute and that’s very frightening.” “They were not only telling us about the game,” he adds. “It was also about their relationship with their family. Without any voyeurism, it was fascinating to listen to: what people go through, how gambling can destroy life. That was very interesting and touching and we were very honoured that they could share their story with us.” For writer Richard Bickley–who won a Fringe First in 1997 for his play After Penny– this destruction of family life is the most interesting and tragic element of addiction. His new play, Uncoupled, focuses on the wife of a porn addict and is inspired by a true story. “A friend of mine’s marriage broke down,” explains Bickley, “She told me about the neglect she’d had from her husband, because for many years, he’d been totally addicted to pornography. I thought that this is a subject that doesn’t get any airing. I started to look
Published on Jul 15, 2012