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DRY in Dry January

Human Story Theatre

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Sam Bennett
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Human Story Theatre, the pop-up company run by Gaye Poole and Amy Enticknap, is a charity with health and social care issues at heart. Their latest release of DRY, the one-hour play featuring music on the topic of parenting, disappointment and middle-aged drinking, has been described by broadcaster Adrian Chiles as the best illustration he’s seen of how people can unwittingly fall into alcoholism. Originally commissioned by the NHS, DRY’s national tour (concluding with a show at the House of Lords) is now supported by Turning Point, a social enterprise which delivers drug and alcohol recovery services around the UK for people who want to make positive change in their lives.

“I wanted to develop something that showed, in a very real way, what many of us have seen or experienced ourselves,” said the writer, Gaye Poole. “What can seem like a social norm can turn people against each other and change personalities. I’ve also introduced topical subjects into the play, such as Brexit, which people use as an excuse that ‘drives them to drink’.”

The play is about the Wilson family, who might be middle-class and middle-aged – but there is nothing middling about their alcohol intake. Can they keep the ‘toxic' out of ‘intoxicated' and keep the family together, or is it a case of sorrows drowned?

The performances will include a Q&A after each show with local guest professionals from Turning Point and other organisations, to discuss the issues of the play and the impact of alcohol on communities as well as to let people know about services which can help.

Broadcaster Adrian Chiles, who has seen DRY and attended its Q&As, said, “DRY, both the play and the Q&As after it, is a brilliant way of getting people to engage in the issues around drinking. All credit to everyone involved, whoever it was in the NHS who had the imagination to commission it in the first place, and to Turning Point for supporting a national tour. It works as a wake-up call to those who may be more dependent on alcohol than they thought. But, importantly, it’s less of a health warning than a positive pointer in the direction of all the help that is available out there.”

"Every person has the possibility of change and at Turning Point we are inspired by that possibility,” says Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive at Turning Point. “We can and do, help people on their journeys to recovery. Turning Point supports DRY because it brings an awareness about the harm that alcohol addiction can do to individuals and society.”

Professor Marion Lynch, deputy medical director at NHS England South, who originally commissioned DRY, said, “DRY was commissioned because of its potential to show medical professionals and the general public some of the real issues behind alcohol abuse. Performing it in Parliament will take this a stage further to an audience that can really help make a difference to the way in which we view and treat alcoholism. Art and culture contribute to our health, and drama such as DRY will make a huge contribution to the current alcohol crisis. Many health professionals know that cultural and community activities can make a much more positive impact than medical intervention alone. DRY’s performances in spaces like church halls, libraries and schools go to the heart of communities and will make a lot of people think about alcohol in a different way.”

DRY will tour from 16 January-12 February. Venues include Didcot Cornerstone (16 January) and The Theatre Chipping Norton (17 January), as well as various other theatres, school halls, museums and libraries across the country and a Turning Point service centre. Most performances will be on a pay-what-you-can basis, after the performance, and bookings can be made here: humanstorytheatre.com/shows

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