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Marylebone Theatre

The Dry House
3.0Overall Score

Set in one morning, the play revolves around an alcoholic middle-aged woman, Chrissy, who is about to go into rehab, the ‘dry house’ of the title. She has made a bargain with her sister Claire to have four last cans of beer before she is taken to the clinic. Chrissy usually drinks quietly, alone, with no music or TV on, the object is not entertainment but oblivion.  ‘Some people drink and go to work and get their stuff done,’ she says, ‘It’s the likes of me that let the side down.’

The question of the production is whether Chrissy will go to get dried out.  For her, there is always an excellent reason for continuing to drink and no good reason to stop right now.  Her daughter’s death in a road crash gives her a current reason for drinking.  Indeed, she recalls at her daughter’s funeral thinking that people would no longer blame her for drinking as she had a reason for it  – now they would pity her rather than judge her.  It is a convincing portrayal of alcoholism, but also of bereavement, not least when Chrissy recounts desperate anonymous sex engaged in as an act of self-harm.

Mairead McKinley plays her role of Chrissy with painful honesty as she sits with her swollen ankles in her dressing gown.  She certainly conveys the wretchedness of the depressed alcoholic.  Kathy Kiera Clarke is  convincing, showing the restrained emotion of the perpetual carer, who is also her sister’s enabler. The ghost of Chrissy’s dead daughter, Heather, is played sensitively by Carla Langley as she appears repeatedly to go through the last conversation she had with her mother before her fatal car crash.  Claire has revelations of her own about drinking but there is apparently no time for character development or self- realisation.  The characters know what their state is as soon as the curtain goes up.  A story about alcohol and drug addiction sounds like it might be challenging, but this production did not ask any profound question, nor answer any, though the cast did a great job.

There is a revenge porn or cyber bullying element in the play which is insufficiently realised and doesn’t fit convincingly next to the viscerally genuine realisation of addiction.  Ultimately the work, written and directed by Eugene O’Hare, lacks the tension necessary to sustain it as anything but a highly convincing wallow in self-pity.

  • Drama
  • Playwright: Eugene O'Hare
  • Director: Eugene O'Hare
  • Cast: Mairead McKinley, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Carla Langley
  • Marylebone Theatre
  • Performance end date: 24th June 2023
  • Performance Time: 7.30

About The Author

Reviewer (London/UK)

Julie Peakman is a historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She is a frequent contributor to journals, magazines, and television documentaries on history, culture, sex, and feminism. She started life in the theatre as an actress and is currently writing her next book (‘Love and Lusts in London’) while working as a librettist developing her books for the theatre.

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