Breaking The Castle

Peter Cook
Breaking the Castle Productions
Assembly Rooms

Breaking The Castle

Addiction is one of the most common hidden diseases, but one that runs almost hand-in-hand with the stresses of modern life and the precariousness of being an actor. Thus we meet David Smith, a jobbing actor and performer, who is also keenly held in the grip of myriad interlinked chemical and physical dependencies.

Based on a fictionalised version of his own experiences, Peter Cook’s play shows a man fighting through the lengthy gauntlet of breaking his addictions and dealing with trauma. It’s a bleak but wholly believable account that uses a variety of narrative devices to slowly peel back the layers of bluster, self-deception and bravado of the man while uncovering the shadows of his story and the roots of his inner trauma.

Bridget Boyle’s direction makes smart use of the small space, and the few props scattered around the stage and handfuls of white powder that cloud the air all pull into a captivating and entrancing descent and rebirth. The action never gets too still or moves around for too long, while the changes in light and ambience easily pull the audience through the web of locations and moments.

Sometimes, the performance does threaten to be a little too much, however. There’s a moment early on, in a rehab centre meeting, where Cook plays a wide variety of peoples from various nations and the play threatens to turn into a showreel for potential voice-over work. It’s not unwelcome, or in any way badly performed, but comes early on and as such a barrage as to feel a little awkward. It’s a choice, and one that is soon forgotten as the story picks up momentum flashing back and forth in time, flitting around the globe.

It’s clear that this is an important project for all involved, and it walks well that thin line between educational and entertaining without ever becoming preachy or self-satisfied. It’s a humble and true tale of bravery, kindness and support.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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