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Breaking the Castle | Old Red Lion Theatre

Breaking the Castle is a one man show, written and performed by Peter Cook and directed by Bridget Boyle. The show follows David through his recovery at rehab as he overcomes his addiction, whilst also grappling with his unsteady career as an actor and playwright. The show is brilliantly written, weaving past and present together, giving us a better understanding of his traumatic past, and the issues that led him to start drinking.

It's the careful stripping away of his tough exterior to give us a glimpse at his childhood, and a thoughtfully complete revealling of these traumatic events that really help us feel their impact. It's through truly brilliant use of comedy, spoken word and theatre that Peter Cook achieves this. The writing is stunning - mixing hard truths, self-deprecating humour, sensitive reflections and a truly powerful speech at the end of the show.

The show relies heavily on imitations in the first half (Shoutout to vocal coach Linda Nicholls-Gidley) which helps bring to life his world. However whilst entertaining, it does become a little confusing to keep track of a number of nameless characters, and ultimately distracts away from David's core story. There's a sense of the show attempting to be both a serious play and also a piece of stand up comedy, but quickly finds itself. The pivotal turning point of the show comes with a tough love conversation with his therapist, and the show really excels hereafter. The originality of Cook's writing shines throughout but the scenes with his therapist particularly. 

The sound design (Kimmo Vennonen) really adds to the piece, taking us through an array of emotions. It's the unsettling use of music and echo to denote David's trapped and frightened childhood self within him, that was particularly incredible. The set is simple (Ieuan Watkins), with David's possessions and clothes strewn about the stage, creating a chaotically messy environment. The use of powder and confetti for cocaine creates some stunning visual moments, but it's the use of the props of a lighter, crystal and holder that has us holding our breaths, intoxicated by Cook's acting in the moment. 

Peter Cook, whilst emphasising the lows of being high, also takes us on a rollercoaster journey of the highs of being high. We're given a front row seat to the various states and emotions, and really feel the panic and paranoia that David experiences when he's lost in his own mind. Cook is a one man army, establishing himself as a performer and writer to watch out for.  It's the final few moments of the show, where Cook lapses into spoken word which really brings the show together. Selecting key moments, reflections and events, he brings the audience to tears in a passionate and heartfelt speech. Now clean, David uses this speech to move, inspire and remind us of the importance of hope. 

Breaking the Castle really does break down the walls and stigma around rehab and recovery (and even addiction). An absolute gem of a show, it becomes a tear-jerker tale of overcoming addition, second chances and not giving up. 


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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