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People, Places and Things review at Wyndham’s Theatre, London – ‘a remarkable performance’

Denise Gough in People, Places and Things at Wyndham's Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson Denise Gough in People, Places and Things at Wyndham's Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Yes, it really is that good. Since People, Places and Things premiered at the National Theatre in September, it’s become a bit of a juggernaut, racking up the awards nominations and glowing reviews. In these situations there’s always the danger of expectations being unreasonably inflated. But on a second viewing, if anything, it’s richer. From its woozy opening moments onwards, the production grabs you by the wrist and doesn’t let go – it barely lets you draw breath.

Revisiting the Headlong co-production for its West End transfer it’s possible to better appreciate the intricacy, intelligence, humour and humanity of Duncan Macmillan’s play and the sterling work being done by Nathaniel Martello-White and Barbara Marten in support, but this is Denise Gough’s show – and she really is remarkable.

Her character, an actress with a booze and pill problem trying to get clean, is contradictory and volatile, arrogant yet sympathetic. She wears a succession of masks throughout and yet Gough makes her whole. We watch her fragment and piece herself back together again. It’s a raw, relentless performance, she’s onstage throughout; it’s also masterfully crafted – the weight she gives each line, each glance, each little twitch, each jut of the jaw, it all contributes to this complex portrait of a woman searching for herself.

While Bunny Christie’s white-tile trapezoid set is rather less effective perched on the stage at Wyndham’s and Jeremy Herrin’s attempts to stage clubbing scenes are still unintentionally amusing, People, Places and Things is a layered and vivid piece of theatre, desperately eloquent about addiction, obliteration, pretence and performance – in theatre as in life.

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Denise Gough delivers an exceptional, engulfing performance in this thrilling West End transfer