Outside Edge are the only theatre company in the UK that work solely in the area of substance abuse and addiction. Besides their drama workshops that support those in recovery, they produce stage performances fabricated by and starring people who have been affected by addiction. In Check-in/Check-out, a Narcotics Anonymous meeting is the backdrop of a combination of monologues, reconstructions and dance that share the performers’ personal stories.
The setting is particularly integral to this production, as the cast use the space to bring out and play with the inherent theatricality of NA meetings. The plastic-backed chairs are constantly moved, stacked and unstacked, creating a movable and fluid area for the performers to use whilst still rooting it firmly in that tangible space of the village hall or community centre.
This shifting backdrop is used to stage the memories of the individual performers. The stories are intensely personal and interesting especially in their refusal to dictate or moralise. They feature the moments of humour and elation as well as those of despair, which makes the tone of the whole piece more human and kind, leaning into the subtleties and nuance as opposed to finding ways out of them.
The combination, however, of the highly choreographed movements and the delicate and emotionally vulnerable narratives ends up taking something away from each. It was never going to be a post-modern, clipped show, and the addition of this kind of staging takes away from the rawness of the storytelling. It becomes stilted and overwrought, not letting the performers really get into the swing of their monologues and keeping them short and polite.
The work done by Outside Edge is invaluable and all the intentions of this performance are noble. Unfortunately, they don’t really have the tools to turn these intentions into a smart or impactful show for those who are not already part of the cause.
Photo: Ali Wright
Check-in/Check-out is at Brick Hall from 6th until 10th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.