An “intervention” is a technical term for a family gathering in the home of a serial boozer, designed by Alcoholics Anonymous to shake the sozzled sinner out of his stupor and into his senses on a path of rehabilitation.
The alcoholic anti-hero of Dave Florez’s play for the Comedians Theatre Company, led by a hirsute, glassy-eyed Phil Nichol, is a chaotic bad boy, Zac, who has lost his job as a teacher and his fiancée to his best mate, played by a moustachioed Waen Shepherd of The Inbetweeners.
He’s also got a hangover “the size of Oprah” which doesn’t help deal with the concerted efforts of friends and family, including Jan Ravens as his stuck-up, fed-up mother, and a handful of transatlantic television stars I’ve never heard of, to sort him out.
With a small audience and an echoing acoustic in the unsuitable ballroom at Assembly, I feared the worst. But the play gathers momentum, and Nichol is very good at projecting a ferocious, helpless anger about himself and his condition that sounds both terrifying and authentic.
The Chicago setting, though, is not at all convincing in Maggie Inchley’s production. We could as easily have been in Hendon or East Grinstead. Zac’s treatment schedule has gone up the spout, which is a cue to rake over the ashes of child abuse, erectile dysfunction, what’s wrong with Palestine and where Zac’s stashed all his miniatures.
Booze isn’t killing him, he says; it’s keeping him alive. The larger metaphor is that we all live with lies that help us through the night, let alone the day-time chores, and Zac has perceived this deeper truth through the blurred fog of his own self-deception. There are no easy answers, he reckons, and no final solution.