Marylebone Theatre (venue)
06 April 2023 (released)
12 April 2023
The first thing that stands out of Eugene O’Hare’s powerful play, The Dry House, is the set, what appears to be a standard sitting room suggests a familiar normalcy, however, for all the recognisable sitcom setting the case is much more suburban relapse.
The environs are a Samuel Beckett-like capsule that contains a multitude of emotions and entanglements a visible interior/exterior prison, mental and physical barriers to ‘going on … because you must’.
Newry, Ireland. A prone figure lies on the settee, deathly still, then sunlight cracks through a gap in the curtain, the body stirs … does a new day signify a new beginning?
Chrissy (Mairead McKinley) is a dipsomaniac, empty bottles litter the room, but, are they the legacy of a good time or the remnants of a spiral?
Claire (Kathy Kiera Clarke) is Chrissy’s sister who arrives early to deliver the ultimatum, “today’s the day you get dry” to great resistance. Mo(u)rning has broken.
The deal is Chrissy has to sign up for eight weeks at a clinic, however, before that there’s the matter of four cans of lager that need consuming before anyone leaves the vicinity. The unravelling has begun…
The play addresses the myriad causes, factors and reasons for an existence through excessive consumption, how drink is a democratic form of self-destruction, a social disease and accepted vice in polite quarters, a normalised way to deal with grief, the expected way to pass the time of day and night. Anyone anywhere can succumb. Anytime.
In Chrissy’s case endless grief at the death of her daughter Heather (Carla Langley) haunts her every fibre, her ghost an ever-present presence and reminder of loss and perpetual denial about the severity of matters. When does dependency become a matter of life and/or death?
O’Hare’s excellent dialogue articulates the familial-ties that bind, the skilful-lies that blind, the devotion of a sibling paramount to the redemption of both.
The admittance of disguise and decorum: secret drinkers are revealed, whether genetic or guilt-based, everyone’s beholden in some way. Decisions have to be made.
Throw in the deceit, duplicity, indignity and absence of decency that social media tends to wreak and the depths of despair individuals plummet to and act upon all add to the heady brew that all comes down to the decisive denouement.
The symbolism of that final sup, the dread of relinquishing the clasp of the bottle and its surreptitiously soothing properties. Will Chrissy embark on a change in direction that will necessitate a change in destiny that will hopefully instil a renewed will to live and eradicate a doused desire to relive the same day again and again?
The three actors all deliver devastating performances, each embodying the daily agonies and devastation dead-end hedonism drives someone to. The whole production is an emotional rollercoaster.
At the close there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
The Dry House runs at Marylebone Theatre, London until 6th May 2023