Addiction is still a taboo word. The mere mention of it still makes many want to run away or to feel grateful it’s not them having to deal with it. The depths of addiction lead to illness and maybe if this word was used to describe addiction, then people would be more accepting and willing to listen. Nicola Reynolds confident directing and writing debut gave us no option other than to stay captive and listen to Charlie’s torturous story of a man still in the grasp of addiction.
Charlie played by Neal McWilliams, opened the play by telling the audience that he wanted us to like him, those desperate pleas felt reminiscent of words said in the minds of those battling addiction; wanting to hide the mess-up they think they really are. McWilliams has a natural jittery humour that is a huge strength in his performance style. I would have liked to have seen more audience interaction after his opening few lines – that desperate wanting to be liked and loved; more showing than telling.
Charlie invited us into the world of his journey with the bottle coming from his harsh home life; an abusive father. We begin to see that Charlie’s journey with alcohol started from a very young age and was a comfort in times of distress. Alcohol, named “She” by Charlie, was set to be the only life-long companion that could stand the test of time, making very little room for the other women to come in his life. We are introduced to Dolly, Charlie’s wife, a woman he described as a ‘dolly’ in every sense of the word. I would like to have found out more about her relationship with Charlie and have seen the genuine ‘Sunny Disposition’ Charlie experienced at that time.
I enjoyed being taken on the journey of old Cardiff haunts: Soda bar; when it was actually awesome and on St Mary’s St, High Street Arcade; it felt nostalgic and I could see the pictures of good times light up McWilliams face that totally locked me into his crazy hedonistic lifestyle at the time.
Soon after meeting Dolly and the birth of his two daughters we see his life-long companion re-emerge to take a hold, once again, and wreck his new and happy life. I would like to have seen the harsh reality of what happened to Charlie when he was kicked out of his family home and what he had to endure in order to get back on his feet again. I believe that dramatizing the hard work he faced getting back on his feet again would have given the tragedy more poignancy, nuance and weight.
McWilliams was able to display a deeply connected performance punctuated by sheer anguish and pain as he explores his loss. The audience was left with some unanswered questions and with food for thought about the next time they casually reach for another drink.
I would have been interested in the play showing the aftermath of the tragedy and find out what happened to Charlie and see where he is now in his life; there are issues that are unfinished within the script and there’s definite potential for further exploration. This is a promising debut from Nicola Reynolds in writing this harrowing piece and should be applauded for tackling a subject that is so often ridiculed and swept under the carpet
A Sunny Disposition, The Other Room until Saturday, May 14. www.otherroomtheatre.com
Photography: Aenne Pallasca