Denise Gough a tour de force as she reprises award-winning role in People, Places & Things

Denise Gough a tour de force as she reprises award-winning role in People, Places & Things

DENISE GOUGH is back in rehab and bringing the stark reality of people suffering with addictions uncomfortably to life in London’s West End.

Duncan MacMillan’s award-winning play People, Places & Things is enjoying a revival at the Trafalgar Theatre this summer, nearly ten years since it first hit the boards in 2015.

Denise Gough as Emma in People, Places & Things (Pics: Marc Brenner)

The addiction drama, largely set in a rehab facility, is as explosive now as it was when it first opened, largely thanks to the tour de force that is Wexford-born Gough as the booze and drugs addled Emma.

Jeremy Herrin directs the revival, which offers a high-octane assault on the senses from the very outset, and Gough returns to the role which won her an Olivier Award in 2016.

We are introduced to struggling actor Emma as she slurs her way through a performance of The Seagull, which quickly turns to her scoring drugs in a nightclub and ends in the bright lights and clinical edges of rehab.

Gough won an Olivier Award for her 2015 performance as Emma (Pics: Marc Brenner)

Gough shifts effortlessly through the scenes, which weave quickly and seamlessly together, with the audience lapping up every minute.

When the noise stops, and her comedown starts, a poised and comically well-timed Sinéad Cusack enters the fray – elegantly transporting between the roles of doctor and group therapy leader and later the role of Emma’s mum.

The Dubliner, who is new to the cast for the revival, adds another level of depth of quality to an already well able ensemble, which includes sterling performances by the likes of Danny Kirrane as Foster and Malachi Kirby as Mark.

But it is Gough who truly makes this play.

Malachi Kirby as Mark, Denise Gough as Emma, Sinéad Cusack as Therapist and Kevin McMonagle as Paul (Pics: Marc Brenner)

Her spine-tingling portrayal of the many stages of recovery is so believable that you quickly feel like you are part of the process.

Your place in the theatre, the close vicinity you hold to the horrors of addiction and those it impacts, makes for indulgently uncomfortable viewing.

And there are some pretty disturbing scenes, thanks to clever staging and the use of a few body doubles, used to portray the brutal task of getting clean.

Sinéad Cusack as Doctor and Danny Kirrane as Foster (Pics: Marc Brenner)

That then leads to therapy, which induces sweats of a different nature, but is utterly engaging for those of us looking in.

You quickly begin to feel like you are part of that group, which is talking about their past and “practising” for the sober future that they have no idea how they are going to deal with.

So fragile and complex are these characters that we want them to share, to heal, to overcome.

There are shocks, sadness and sentiment throughout MacMillan's play, so much so that there is something of the soap opera about it.

Denise Gough plays drink and drugs-addled Emma (Pics: Marc Brenner)

Is it a cautionary tale or simply an insight into a condition faced by so many, which no one really feels comfortable talking about?

It prompts you to ask questions, such as how effective rehab can be, and how hard it really is for an addict to exist outside the safety of the facility once they have served their time.

Whatever your opinion or answers might be to those, this production offers much to think about.

People, Places & Things runs at the Trafalgar Theatre until August 10