Reviews

Tracey West

Trustee for NACOA

Tracey West is a child of an alcohol dependent mother who passed away on Tracey’s 40th birthday. She certainly knows the pain, volatility and hardships of being a child of an alcoholic (COA) and was delighted to be asked to attend the inaugral performance of Off Her Facebook! (OHF).

She told us, ‘I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest. This is such a hard subject to tackle in a realistic way and their target demographic (i.e. school children) seemed more than ambitious.

There was a vibrant and expectant buzz in the room as we took our seats and observed the simple set laid out before us; a couch, a bottle or two in clear sight, a glass, a screen, a chair. It was clearly going to be an intense play with so few items to dance around or hide behind – the content was going to be hard hitting. But even as the music filled the room and the actors took their marks for the opening scene, my concerns arose about whether it might be too hard…

I needn’t have worried. The anticipation of what would roll out over the coming 40 minutes pricked all of my senses into analytical overdrive and 10 minutes in, I could see Rob Windsor, the writer and director had done a magnificent job; he nailed it to the wall in fact.

The language, the dialogue, the played out emotions, even the outfits and quick changes were all palatable, believable and engaging. I imagined watching this through the eyes of a COA who was used to living their life in secrecy and knew the play could not fail to touch them.

I imagined also they would be highly likely to want to ‘do’ something following the performance and I was assured there would be workshops available post-show, offering perfect vehicles for everyone to debrief.

I also tried to view the play through the eyes of a child who really couldn’t relate to the clear disfunction of the characters and their alcohol fuelled complexities and imagined they’d be quite inquisitive, possibly shocked, but would likely feel a need to debrief/investigate also.

The industry professionals in the room who watched the play with me were clearly moved by the content, many into tearful submission and admiration for the powerful energy that pierced through every carefully placed word in the narrative.

I have no doubts there will be few dry eyes from the proposed audiences of children and teachers alike. I have every faith in Rob and his incredible team that OHF will be an incredible resource for ‘outing’ this much misunderstood set of circumstances so many young ones find themselves in and with the after show activities and discrete signposting towards the many services that are available, NACOA included, it may prove to be a pivotal day at school they’ll never, ever forget, for the better.’

John Fenston

Trustee for NACOA

I had anticipated a piece which demonstrated more explicit, alcohol fuelled rage, anger and emotional abuse by the alcoholic, towards his family. Probably because this is the more common stereotype.

The piece, by contrast, is more understated and the damage to the family less obviously melodramatic. There is no overt domestic violence and the play is probably more realistic, as a result, in it’s portrayal of family life, where drink and it’s associated unreality is a problem.

I had expected to be frightened, but ended up feeling sorrow for all the victims in this everyday tragedy.

We get a good sense of the frustrations, sadnesses and exasperation that are engendered in both Laura and her mother by the drinking behaviour of Ed. As importantly, we see the impact of Ed’s behaviour on Laura and as the choices she, in turn, makes about her own life.

I found the miscommunication and misunderstandings within the family particularly poignant and very true to life.

The sense of regret and sorrow is palpable throughout the piece and the fact that there are no glib simplistic ‘feel-good’ solutions emphasises the realistic approach taken by the author in his examination of a family living with everyday despair and emotional poverty. Equally true, is the lack of condemnation. There are no ‘goodies and baddies’, just wounded people struggling to cope.

Author and Director, Robert, is a highly personable and creative individual who has brought his expertise in dysfunctional families to a theatrical setting and created a very moving drama of great integrity. The play has already been used as a valuable therapeutic method of illustrating the complexities of family dynamics and as a focus for workshop discussions and on-going group work.

I can also envisage that Robert’s approach could prove equally valuable as a training aid for professionals and for reaching a notoriously difficult audience, children from very troubled backgrounds.

I have no hesitation in recommending both Robert and his team.

Ian Hedley

Zone Manager, Sherborne Learning Centre, Simons Road, Sherborne.

I wanted to say how impressed my colleagues and I were with your production of ‘Off Her Facebook!‘. Our students are the fiercest critics and even a good quality production can fall flat with them.

As it was, the play held their attention and generated a lot of discussion later in the day. The script did not pull any punches and was challenging yet wasn’t patronising in any way. The acting was great and the overall experience was very positive. The fact that you held a full house throughout the duration of the play speaks volumes about its quality.

I look forward to your next production, or booking you again for this same one in a couple of years and wish you every success with promoting your work and taking it to a wide range of schools and settings.