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A drama about parenting, disappointment and middle-aged drinking.
The Old Fire Station, Thu 11 January - Sat 13 January 2018

Oxfordshire based Human Story Theatre put on productions which bring health and social care issues under the spotlight in thought-provoking and often amusing ways. Previous productions include The Fourth Dog, which explored the theme of having breast cancer, and Flat 73 which looked at isolation and loneliness in the modern world.

Their latest production, written by co-creator Gaye Poole, is called DRY. The piece follows the middle-class, middle aged Wilsons whose relationship with alcohol is causing rifts with their daughter Chloe. This one-hour show will have live music, performed by cellist Rachel Watson who plays Chloe, and a post-show Q&A with guest professionals from local charities addressing the issues explored in the play.

This production will be touring around Oxfordshire so if you can’t catch it this week, there are plenty more opportunities to do so.

January 12, 2018
Middle-class, middle-aged, mostly intoxicated

Having seen a few Human Story Theatre performances over the last couple of years, I came to Dry knowing that the performances and writing would be of a high standard, regardless of the subject matter. Such high expectations to place on a company, one might think, but based upon my previous experience I was confident I would not be disappointed.

Human Story Theatre is an Oxfordshire-based pop-up theatre company, founded by Gaye Poole and Amy Enticknap, who “focus upon new plays with a health and social care issue at heart”. In this instance, Dry introduces us to the Wilsons: a middle-class, middle-aged couple who, on the surface, have a very ‘normal’ life. They have a sullen 17-year old daughter (Rachel Watson) who hides in her room practising the cello all hours, and often have friends round for dinner. As the play goes on, however, it becomes clear that perhaps James (played by an electrifying Paul Ansdell) is becoming rather more dependent on alcohol than he would have his wife (or himself) believe.

The play starts as a seemingly light-hearted piece around a family who enjoy entertaining. With only three cast members it’s difficult to imagine how the company portray a dinner party, but Ansdell and Bryonie Pritchard (playing Ellen Wilson) sweep around the stage with bottles of wine and glasses and casserole dishes in an almost balletic way, executing their role as hosts in such a clever, inclusive way, that in lieu of their actual guests not physically being there, we, the audience, are drawn into the gathering instead. With erudite dialogue and swift scene changes we quickly become a part of the Wilsons’ world. Daughter, Chloe is on stage at all times. While she may not be involved in the dinner parties, or the pre-drinks, or the nightcaps, she is always present, her cello usually protecting her. Having live music during such a performance only heightens the drama and already high emotion. Watson plays ARne Richards’ score beautifully and brings an extra dimension to not only the sorrow and pain that Chloe is quietly going through, but also to the whole performance.

The performances were all outstanding, with a beautifully written script to work with. After the final powerful scene, there was a stunned silence while the audience took it all in, followed quickly by enthusiastic applause. The show was followed by a Q&A with guest professionals from Turning Point, Al-Anon and The Samaritans, who provided frank insights into the world of families like the Wilsons, and reinforced how close to reality such tales are.

My partner and I spent the journey home discussing our own relationship with alcohol, and how frightening it is to see how easily one could start to fall into the terrifying clutches of alcoholism.

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