Reviewed – 6th March 2019
“the space was filled with song, dance and moments of physical theatre which at times lost focus and appeared to lose momentum”
Outside Edge Theatre Company showcased their offering Check-in/Check-Out as part of this year’s VAULT Festival. Entering into the Brick Hall to the bass of loud dance music playing overhead, you first meet the six individuals who welcome you to an Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meeting, like you’ve never seen before. The company, all performers in recovery, collaboratively devised the piece which appears to be inspired by the mantra “from personal journeys of chaos come authentic stories of recovery”, which features across their flyer. As they each introduce themselves, the rules of the meeting are outlined and from this point on anything goes as we are transported through the turbulent years they each faced, whilst on their journey towards sobriety.
The array of performers highlighted one thing: addiction doesn’t discriminate. To see individuals on stage that felt strikingly ‘familiar’ to friends and family drummed in the message that it can happen to anyone. As they delivered their accounts of sexual abuse, drink driving and theft, it often teetered on the borderline of humorous yet uncomfortable. A dark comedic undertone bubbled away throughout where heavy topics were discussed in a frank and deadpan fashion. The audience were often caught mid laugh as light-hearted lines were swiftly followed with cold hard accounts of addiction. The vulnerability of each individual standing up to recall their darkest moments is something to be greatly respected. The power of art as a means of therapy is clearly evident here as we watch the performers physically draw the damage they have done to their bodies to then wipe it all away; symbolic of their twelve-steps to recovery.
The set (Robson Barreto) was simple yet more dynamic than first anticipated. Various stacks of plastic chairs were moved and restacked throughout creating new spaces for stories to be explored by the performers. A hybrid version of verbatim and documentary style theatre, the space was filled with song, dance and moments of physical theatre which at times lost focus and appeared to lose momentum. Authentic, unpolished and a little rough around the edges, it was an eclectic mix of storytelling co-facilitated by Matt Steinberg and Christopher Holt, which laid bare the various roots to recovery in a very human way.
As the performance drew to a close, in walks Lauren who introduces herself as an addict, the newest arrival to the group. A cold reminder that as one person makes it to recovery someone else’s twelve-step journey is just about to begin. Despite this nod to the ongoing battle faced by many others, Check-In/Check-Out is a show of hope, sharing the success of one very mixed group of individuals; who despite their setbacks are ready to share their honest accounts of how they turned their lives around.
Reviewed by Lucy Bennett
Photography courtesy Outside Edge Theatre
Part of VAULT Festival 2019