Nestled in the charming Marylebone Theatre is the world premiere of Eugene O'Hare's The Dry House. A female-only cast exploring addiction to alcohol and all that it brings. Chrissy (Mairead McKinley) and Claire (Kathy Keira Clarke) are close sisters, they share everything.
As soon as the curtain rises we are into it. No preamble, Chrissy is sitting shaking and sweating profusely in an untidy living room full of damp and mould. The exterior matching what we can only assume to be her interior. Her immaculately dressed sister, Claire, arrives with a four-pack of lager fresh from the off-licence. It’s 9.30 am.
Chrissy is an alcoholic, circumstances (the death of her daughter, inter alia) leading her to abuse and addiction. Claire is helping the best way she knows how. ‘This lager is to help stave off your withdrawal (admitting Chrissy to an alcohol clinic for 8 weeks). No vodka though’. ‘Are you trying to get me drunk’ retorts Chrissy. And it’s gems of moments like this in which is a heavy topic that the writing shines through. Dark humour at its finest, written with empathy and sympathy.
The pain you cause others cannot be separated from the pain you cause yourself and it’s this running theme throughout the 90 minutes that is highlighted. We see how Claire’s attitude to alcohol plays out, addiction takes many forms. How it runs through families, systemically destroying relationships and networks. Was the sisters’ drinking a genetic route, from their daddy who perhaps passed on the need for it? Will they face their demons once they stop blocking it with alcohol and find peace?
It runs until 6 May.
Review: Kay Johal Photo: Manuel Harlan
I won’t share the closing scenes but I will say this. If there was scope to extend the play e.g. what does life look like for Chrissy, Claire and (albeit in death for Heather) once ‘dried out’ then I for one would be settling into my seat with my ‘glass of gin with a Solpadeine’. It’s a topical subject and The Dry House has the ability to educate without forcefully showing how drinking can destroy lives.
A huge cheer must be given to Mairead - Chrissy is a complex character and robust in her nature and Ms McKinley, I am almost certain, at times was an alcoholic such was the strength of her portrayal.