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Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? What Drugs Did to my Family
It’s difficult to know where to start when talking about the hard-hitting and personal subject that this play covers. Based on a true story, one that first took the shape of a novel by Elizabeth-Burton-Philips (the Mother of Nick that lost his life to drugs), the play depicts the domino-like effect that addiction has, not just on the user, but on the people around them.
As with many things, sometimes it is best to begin with the end: a montage of shots of how Nick’s twin brother had gone on, unlike him, to live without the hold that drugs once had. The images and the rights of passage made all the more poignant by the fact that his brother was not there to share them with him. With the majority of the audience in tears and the audible sniffles filling the room at the end of the play, Elizabeth and Nick’s twin stood to the applause of the crowd. If the messages within what you had just seen hadn’t hit you already, this was the moment where they confronted you head-on.
I wish that I could say that Elizabeth, who had the drive and determination to set up a charity in Nick’s name, DrugFam, dedicated to helping families through addiction, offered a message of hope that stuck with me the most; it wasn’t. Nor did the standing ovation, or the suicide note written by another sufferer, or the countless other tragic and personal accounts of what drugs had done to them; it was the addiction itself that had taken hold of me.
Called ‘Lady Heroin’ in the play, enacted by the talented Sophie Tickle, we watched as this alluring figure toyed with the other characters. With her fiery red hair, her beautiful face (mannequin-like in expression) and ghostly, pale complexion, she weaved her way through the play. Even when on the sidelines her stare was fixed on the action waiting for her moment to strike, taunt or drift through to distance you from the emotion of situations and to enhance them at will; her presence always felt.
‘Lady Heroin’ gave me an understanding of how drugs creep in on you, something I had never really been able to understand before. Having grown up around friends that were addicted to a drug of some form, it was familiar territory in some ways. The relationship that the family and the users had with the drug became more intense as the play went on. The different emotional holes that she began to fill, and literally drag people away from those close to them, with participation in with the familiar dance that ended with the ultimate high and the undeniable urge for more. In the end, she forcibly injects the needle into Nick’s arm guided by him; ending in his last hit before he takes his own life, the drug literally and finally takes complete control.
Amongst the sea of black in Nick’s funeral scene, Lady Heroin stood, like the white roses on Nick’s grave; seemingly innocent in appearance, bearing thorns that would make you pay with blood. Like injecting heroin, she would prick you with ecstasy and then leave you with the track marks, her little trail of footsteps, the sign of an addict.
Doing battle with addiction is a daily struggle with ‘Lady Heroin’ or whatever form she may take for each individual, it is not easy to escape the comfort, the highs, the temptations, but it seems to me that it is a matter of holding on, no matter what, to the people around you and your success in beating it depends upon the support that you have and your own determination to resist the inevitable cravings that come.
I have a new found respect for people who have come through the other side of drugs, both families and addicts, and those that haven’t (seeing users as both victim and perpetrators) Life unfolds with the usual twists and turns and drugs can suffocate love and destroy any sense of real joy that you ever had and replace it with an artificial and fast-acting fix that comes at a high price, should you fall prey to its magnetism.
Based on a novel written by Elizabeth-Burton-Philips
Directed by Carmel Baines and Mike Howl, The Citadel
Victoria Plaza, London, 27 March 2014
Written by Sam a COAP volunteer