It's My Wonderful Life Review
Edinburgh has had its fair share of drug addicts. We buried Thomas De Quincey the self-confessed opium eater, gave birth to the cocaine and morphine using Sherlock Holmes and provided home to the Trainspotting skag boys, Renton, Spud, Sick-Boy and Begbie.
A blurring of fact and fiction. In this one-man show we have fact presented as drama as Charles Michael Edmonds recounts his real life struggles with cocaine addiction and road to recovery – a redemption won on a day to day basis.
It starts in almost murmured reticence, as if he is loath to share the story with the audience. The reasons for this become clear as the tale unfolds.
As he sits miming spooning huge quantities of cocaine, he goes back to a High School trip and a few fairly innocent experiments with drugs. The downward spiral is steep however and with an exasperated “this shit never lasts”, he slips to the carpet to seek out any spilled dregs.
No problem, his solution is to dive deeper into a world of drugs, violence, lies, theft and sex with crack head girls. With mounting debts and absences from work he decides to “pretend” to have a drugs problem and get referral to a rehab centre. His level of denial that he has a problem is astounding. We travel with him to snowy St. Paul, Minnesota and through counselling sessions meet with other characters, each of whom gives us a different perspective.
A road to Damascus moment allows him to return home for the holidays and to see the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. For a man who gets high to avoid feelings it’s a watershed moment.
This is simple, truthful, compelling and sometimes humorous storytelling that feels more confessional than conventional theatre. There may be better settings than the temporary black-box auditorium within the hotel. Anything too stagey would detract from the feeling that we are being handed something from a man who admits he has trust issues, but having a small audience in-the-round in an AA meeting style or site-specific in a bedroom would raise the theatricality.
No doubt Edmonds will be watching It’s a Wonderful Life this Christmas. So probably will I, and if I do I will be thinking of a brave man baring his soul in an Edinburgh hotel room.
Show Times: Runs to 18 August (not 12); 9.05pm.
Ticket Prices: £6.50 (£4.50)