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People, Places and Things

‘Powerless against people, places and things’

Written by Duncan Macmillan, produced by Headlong (directed by Jeremy Herrin) and designed by Bunny Christie (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time).

This play is an intoxicating story of escape from reality and about surviving the modern world. The protagonist, Emma, checks herself into rehab. Initially, she struggles to admit that she has a problem. As the play unfolds, Emma is slowly unfurled from the cocoon of her denial and forced to confront the reasons and nature of her addictions.

On the surface, this play is about an actress who feels that she is nothing when she is not on stage; great at performing a character but with no substance of personality when she is brought back to reality. Emma also uses addiction to dampen feelings of guilt and grief following the death of her brother.

Emma’s struggles with addiction and recovery are poignant and relatable to all who struggle to come to terms with the world in which we live; made up of people, places and things. We live in a world where injustice and inequality are omnipresent and feel guilty for our own struggles because of our relative privilege. Awareness of these modern problems and their scale against the individual cause a further moral conundrum when it is difficult to see a solution. In this way, people are often faced with feelings of guilt and worthlessness that are mirrored in Emma’s journey through the play, and a desire to escape reality is strikingly understandable.

Fundamentally, this play is about being ‘Powerless against people, places and things;’ how to deal with existential crises that arise from surviving in the modern world. Emma’s story reflects a feeling of wanting to escape when we feel unable to face reality.


Review by Eve Seymour

Molly Moe
Eve Seymour

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