The Dry House at Marylebone Theatre
A messy room littered with empty cans and bottles is the gloomy setting of The Dry House, a play exploring the root of addiction and the complex ways it can take hold of a vulnerable person.
Written and directed by Eugene O’Hare, the action unfolds over the course of one morning. Chrissy (Mairead McKinley) is experiencing debilitating withdrawal symptoms after running out of alcohol and the money to buy it. Her sister, Claire (Kathy Kiera Clarke), comes to the rescue with four cans of beer, which she agrees to buy in exchange for a promise: that she will accompany Chrissy to a clinic, or “dry house”, directly after consuming the drinks, when the symptoms will have eased.
The ensuing confrontation between the two sisters about Chrissy’s alcoholism leads to intimate confessions and raw emotions being laid on the table. Chrissy lost her teenage daughter, Heather (Carla Langley), in tragic circumstances, but the youngster still occupies the house in spirit, talking to her mother and aunt when they need her. The loss was her mother’s pretext to no longer try to control an existing drinking problem, in the knowledge she wouldn’t be judged as harshly after the tragedy. Sensing that she has now hit rock bottom, Chrissy has a heart-to-heart filled with pathos with her sister.
The naturalistic style of the play and the strong performances of the cast really bring the characters alive and make them feel realistic. Some passages are weaker than others, such as a couple of monologues that feel a bit overdone: they go into unnecessary detail, adding more information to a plot that is at its best when it focuses on the dynamic between the siblings or when it zooms in on the exploration of addiction.
By the end, the drama is piled too high, with each character carrying a very heavy load. Still, it manages overall to be effective, also thanks to some dark humour. Although imperfect, The Dry House has some powerful moments and a great cast to hold it all together, as well as a strong theme worth talking about and reflecting on.
The Dry House is at Marylebone Theatre from 31st March until 6th May 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.