Portsmouth writer and Star and Crescent regular Will Sutton reports on Diving into the Wreck, a moving performance on addiction and recovery by poet Maggie Sawkins and director Mark C. Hewitt, funded by the Big Lottery.
“There’s a murderer in my head, and he wants me dead.”
Within five minutes of Diving into the Wreck, we understood: how easy it is to slip into addiction. I don’t think I was the only one in the audience at Portsmouth’s Square Tower counting my blessings that I have been lucky enough to have the support of friends and family through the tough times that bring so many to such a state that they will try anything.
In the first of a series of filmed interviews (produced by Matt Parsons), moving, funny and honest, one recovering addict told without melodrama, without self-pity or understatement, how he had fallen into addiction. Insecure from an early age, it was alcohol that first brought him relief, and the feeling that he could cope. Next came heroin – and he is careful to tell us how much effort is required to get hooked.
“It makes you vomit, but you don’t care. You don’t care about anything.”
Between and during the films, four people come onstage to tell their tales. They are quietly spoken, undemonstrative, eloquent. There is no attempt to turn them into actors – and there is no need to, because their words are so vivid and the testament on film is so vibrant.
The films are interspersed with stark white titles, which came to life as the interviews unfurled the lives of the recovering addicts. “Mad as a box of frogs.” Every so often, one of their colourful phrases comes to life onscreen, as when the two recovering addicts are remembering what one used to drink:
“It was strong lager.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“No, you’re right. It was lager on pay day, then cider the rest of the week.”
“Cider? Arsehole Diesel!”
A cheap plastic bottle of cider sits on a park bench, uncompromisingly labelled Arsehole Diesel.
Most of the tales reveal the depths of addiction. There are images that will stay with me, of the man who was so ill he continually lost control of his bowels; of the woman who used to fall asleep on her sofa, or on the floor, and one morning woke to find herself covered in blood having fallen down the stairs; of the mum battling to save her son from addiction when the rest of the family had given up on him.
A couple of songs intersperse the talk (performed by Janet Ayers and Martin Heys: Mary Gauthier’s I Drink and a Johnny Cash style Hurt (Nine Inch Nails song). Brilliant. The rhythm of the show is beautifully controlled, and all the work of poet Maggie Sawkins and director Mark C Hewitt is so effective it becomes invisible, allowing us to think, to listen and to try to understand a world that we may not have understood, to wonder how.
At the end, all four performers come together to remember moments from their lives, moments of loss and love and theft and coming up and coming down.
A superb show, heart-breaking and warm-hearted at the same time.
Go and see it at the Square Tower on 17th June. Go and see it twice. (Portsmouth Festivities should be inundated with demands that they extend the show’s run.)
“A group production evoking the secret world of addiction: its craziness, nastiness, predictable routines, and dark humour.”
“I went to see this in May when it was performed. It’s a brilliant event and will guarantee to make you laugh, cry and all things in between. It really shouldn’t be missed. I will probably go again and take my daughter with me. Such an important piece of work.” Christine Lawrence
Diving into the Wreck is part of the Portsmouth Festivities showing on 17th June at 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm at the Square Tower, PO1 2JE.
Tickets £5 www.portsmouthfestivities.co.uk
Image credit Maggie Sawkins, Diving into the Wreck.
This article first appeared on Will Sutton’s website.