On entering the small room in St Christopher’s Church, on Hawes Side Lane, Blackpool, I knew the play would be an intimate affair. What the audience of approximately twenty, or so saw will most likely stick with them a life time. The play, which is based on real life events, and characterised with Dan, and Jess as the soul partners cast into a chaotic, and tumultuous sequence of events which tell the unfortunate story of a heroin addict’s life. The names are changed for dramatic reasons.
Dan, and Jess are lovingly close and inseparable, as lovers often are, unfortunately there is a third party involved in this, a hidden and darker character, which rears its ugly head very early into the play. This ‘other’ character is Dan’s deepest secret, and hidden angst, and also his bitter enemy, it is heroin. Jess, although the epitome of a genuinely loving girlfriend is put into second place by Dan, and as soon as he honestly tells Jess, she is of course irate with Dan’s behaviour. Jess makes every move possible to help Dan kick the habit, and also helps aid his addiction with great defence.
The story is told with such dynamism, and with such vigour, and honesty by the two young actors, in the centre of the floor at ground level, so as an audience, you are on a par, and have a sense of ‘knowing’ the characters of Dan, and Jess intimately. One cannot avoid being drawn into the energetic performance, which captivates, yet also grips your entire emotions. The sensitivity, also of the topic is portrayed well, and at times both actors cry, as too the audience.
With minimal props, for myself, the play is reminiscent of work by Harold Pinter, which I believe is a great compliment to Melanie Claire Whitehead, who wrote the play based on her own experience of living, loving and losing a heroin addict, her partner of the time. The play has been keenly, observantly, and brilliantly directed, on a small budget, but with a big message, which comes across like a kick in the stomach, and that is an anti-drugs, stance. Or a message of how addiction breaks families, friendships, work. All the important things in life.
The play broaches aspects of co-dependency too. The tears shed whilst the performance is in full flow, are genuine, a real sense of understanding, grief, and frustration at how addiction can eat at the heart, the very soul of existence, is felt by all in the small Church hall. A perfect setting for such a dynamic, and moving play, a sense there is hope, in some cases, but sometimes there is none.
Finer details are not overlooked, from clothing, to disguised behaviour of an addict. With passion, and true grit this play will leave you knocked down, as if by a lead feather. It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to review this play by Melanie, and I am left with the notion, it is ‘Better to have Loved’.
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