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Review: Wet House at Live Theatre, Newcastle until Saturday, October 11

Chris Connel stars in Paddy Campbell's account of Wet House. Tamzin Mackie went along to Live Theatre to see the show

****
Live Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Live Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne

No punches are pulled in playwright Paddy Campbell’s powerful account of a wet house. This is a sometimes tragic, sometimes sordid tale of society’s most dispossessed, living one step up from the street, in a hostel for people ‘failed’ by every other service.

It’s a bit like to Dignitas except, ‘here they die slowly and with no dignity.’

The audience’s induction to Crabtree House takes place alongside new recruit Andy (Riley Jones), who at the outset is so feeble that he can barely stomach a cup of PG Tips.

Ex-para turned carer Mike (Chris Connel), a comedic bully, is on hand to demonstrate his policy of terror so effectively, that Andy begins a descent into hell.

Which makes the play sound very bleak and it is, but like all the best uncompromising drama, Wet House is balanced out by some wonderfully humorous writing.

The biggest laughs were probably reserved for Dinger (Joe Cafffrey) who is so convincing, he looks as though he has just walked in off the street.

And there are heartbreaking moments too, like when carer Helen (Jackie Lye) tries to ‘mother’ pregnant addict Kerry (Eva Quinn), who is well beyond her help.

It’s Mike’s hatred of paedophile Spencer (Simon Roberts) which leads to the bloody climax of the first half of the play, the fall-out of which is smeared all over the second part.

Thankfully, Wet House does finish with a glint of hope amongst all the excrement, as Dinger summons the courage to write a birthday card to his daughter.

And the final scene nods back to Andy’s naïve question ‘what makes us better than them?’ At the time Mike answers, ‘I pay my taxes and walk my dog.’ But by the end, as a homeless heavy drinker, he is a little less sure.

*There are two special Wet House events coming up: the first is on Sunday at 6.45pm with Live’s literary manager Gez Casey leading a discussion of Homelessness & Addiction.

And on Tuesday at 10.15pm, director Max Roberts, writer Paddy Campbell and the cast will talk about the making of the show,  www.live.org.uk .

Tamzin Mackie

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