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Actor Joe McGann has stepped into the role of playwright, with a new show premiering this weekend at the Liverpool Festival
Actor Joe McGann is well-known to many of us for his work on screen and stage. And we’re proud that he’s frequently been a writer for us here at Silver. But he’s taken a leap of faith, inspired to co-write – and perform in – a play with Jake Norton, centred around ‘an intervention.’
Sober Companion explores the funny, raw, and sometimes dark places of fame, addiction, and recovery.
Dan (played by Norton) is a high-flying prime time television presenter. He also has a bad habit which he denies, but he’s not hiding it as well as he thinks.
Gerard (played by McGann) has seen it all before. He has personal experience of recovery that could be useful to Dan, so his services have been engaged.
There is an intervention, intrusion of privacy, a stranger in the midst. We all need a little help sometimes, but it can be difficult to admit.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
I caught up with Joe to find out how it’s going, what it’s like acting in something you’ve written, and how he’s coping with doing it all.
How does it feel to have your work premiere this weekend then!?
Well, it’s both exciting and terrifying! It’s at this point, four days before the first performance of anything, that I usually think “why the hell do I put myself through this?”
It will pass as I get nearer to showtime, but the struggle is real, as they say. That said, this is slightly different in that it’s going to be in my home city, a play that I’ve co-devised and co-directed, so there’s a genuine excitement at performing in front of friends and family.
The venue is also an interesting one; they call it The Bombed Out Church, and the stage is built at what was the altar end of the church. It’s open to the sky, and so the whole experience is different from the usual theatre atmosphere. And I think all the better for that. So… bring it on!
Your play explores the theme of an intervention…
Jake and I were looking for something that two actors could do, and we were excited dramatically by the idea of an intervention. An intervention, especially in the workplace, is one of those things that absolutely nobody would welcome, that anybody would kick against, that no one would admit that they needed.
Since we started writing, of course, the Phillip Schofield and now Huw Edwards stories have broken, and the murky world behind the scenes, in dressing rooms and HR departments, has come under scrutiny.
In the ever more increasing reach of the world of HR and this notion of a ‘duty of care’ they are becoming more common. This is very fertile ground, dramatically, and when we, purely coincidentally, happened on the idea of setting the intervention in the dressing room of a fictional ‘National Treasure” of a TV presenter we were pleased because it gave us a setting that many people are curious about.
Since we started writing, of course, the Phillip Schofield and now Huw Edwards stories have broken, and the murky world behind the scenes, in dressing rooms and HR departments, has come under scrutiny. These dressing room fiefdoms are where media monsters are made, and often these people believe themselves genuinely untouchable.
We thought it would be good to examine the relationship one such person had with themselves, with their loved ones, and, frankly, with reality. The patterns of behaviours that come with any addiction are pretty similar, and this gives us a template to ask universal questions about fame, recovery, privacy and publicity in what we hope is an entertaining way.
Writing is a very exposing thing. How did you push through self-doubt?
Ah, my constant friend, imposter syndrome. It’s always been with me, and I guess I’m so used to ‘pushing through it’ that this has actually become an intrinsic part of my process. It’s always there, and nothing I’ve ever done has managed to quiet it for longer than very brief moments, so the only thing to do is to embrace it. I hope that it sort of helps keeps me grounded.
I’ll be twenty years sober next year, and the self-doubt can stay. It’s much easier to deal with than going back on the lash
Hand on heart, the only thing I ever found that I felt quieted it was a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, and that didn’t go too well as a plan. I’ll be twenty years sober next year, and the self-doubt can stay. It’s much easier to deal with than going back on the lash; for me and all of those I love. Low self-esteem and self-doubt are among the most common reasons that people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. We touch on this in the play.
How will you balance the roles of writer and actor?
Pretty easily I would think- I mean my dance card isn’t exactly full of offers for either, so I will always have time, I should think. I would like to carry on writing plays, though.
I think this process has pushed me through to a place where I feel confident enough of my ideas. I have another play in development as we speak, and that is exciting me just now. I guess the learning curve is perpendicular from my feet, and I feel that that’s a very privileged place to be.
What aspects of the theme do you find most intriguing or challenging to portray?
While I’ve said that there are many recognised symptoms shared between addicts of all kinds, I think that we are way too quick to judge the addict by their transgressions rather than recognising their pain.
…we are way too quick to judge the addict by their transgressions rather than recognising their pain.
It also strikes me as odd that we see so many Instagram accounts and books all trumpeting about the ‘joys’ of the recovery ‘journey’. Getting one’s life back together after the horrible mess of addiction is most definitely a journey, but I feel that it’s more pilgrimage than parade.
I’ve never felt comfortable when people congratulate me for straightening myself out. All I’ve done is stopped being destructive to myself and those around me. I’ve just come up to par, if you like. Made the basic requirements, and I’ve tried to explore this in the play.
Sam is Silver’s founder and editor-in-chief. She’s largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.
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