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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Ingredient X
Royal Court Theatre    Summer 2010

Did you know that the X Factor and particularly Danni Minogue are rabidly anti-Welsh? That, at least, is the theory of Deanne, one of four characters, all of whom are deeply affected by every kind of addiction under the sun, in Nick Grosso's first play at the Royal Court in eight years.

The writer has clearly set out to explore the nature of addiction and its impact, not only on addicts themselves, but also their loved ones. What could be grim viewing turns out to be highly amusing, primarily because the characters that he creates are both believable and frequently comic.

Strangely, the calmest of the four protagonists is blocked writer Frank, played by James Lance, hosting an X Factor night in his luxurious pine-floored kitchen. He is a recovering addict who still relies heavily upon group support sessions but genuinely seems to have straightened himself out.

On the night in question, Frank's equanimity is sorely tested by a trio of women with dark, red and blonde hair who might easily be christened the Witches of North London.

Each member of this quartet has been devastatingly affected by addiction, both their own and that of friends and relations. Frank's wife Katie, played by Indira Varma, has spent her whole life rescuing addicts and as such, has become addicted to the type.

She is also mother to baby Bubba, so sweet that the mention of his name is enough to get the women to dissolve into ahhs.

It is the other pairing that really give life to the party. Deanne (Lisa Palfrey) is the mother of troubled teens and can only protect herself by taking just one more drink (about 20 times). She knows that she doesn't have a drink problem but only after she is blotto.

Her best friend, Lesley Sharp's terrifying Rosanna, uses words as if they were going out of fashion, launching constant tirades throughout the evening, often when attacked about her junkie ex-husband.

Nick Grosso can, at times, labour his points a little too much. Even so, he has written an entertaining and thought-provoking play that really addresses the contemporary issue of addiction to everything from drink and drugs to video games, the Internet and even, dare one say it, Reality TV shows like the X Factor.

Philip Fisher

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Review of Ingredient X - Royal Court Theatre 2010

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