These days everyone is addicted to something: iPhones, Netflix & KitKat Chunkies for the masses and sex if you’re a middle-aged male celebrity. Obesity rates rocket while doctors debate the causes of the modern malaise: is ‘Big Food’ pumping us full of high fructose corn syrup (a synthesised sugar product that stimulates the craving circuitry in our brains) or are we all just lazy and lacking in self control? After all, you ‘don’t have to’ eat it…

Abundant evidence of socially accepted addictions has anaesthetised us to the destructive power of chronic substance abuse and the damge it does to those who cannot afford to check themselves into rehab. ‘Rockston Stories: An Addictive Cabaret’ by Outside Edge theatre company is a musical collaboration between professional performers and recovering ‘real’ addicts. This is no musical with occasional cameos by ‘civilians’: you have to read the program to tell the difference between actor and addict.

Set in the splendour of the recently restored Hoxton Hall, the production draws eery parallels between consumptive Victorian showgirls ravaged by laudunum and more recent arrivals trafficked into an area of London not too far from the famous Cereal Cafe so much in the news of late.

The action is orchestrated by antihero ‘Aphrodite’ played by Charon Bourke – compere and ringmaster to an underworld at once glamorous and repulsive: a glittering jewel fallen into sewage. Bourke – also one of the writers – never lets her audience off the hook: viewers are at once entertained by the uniformly high standard of the cabaret acts and complicit in the disturbing events behind the curtain.

Despite the depressing nature of the subject matter, this is an exhiliating evening in which the setting and stories combine to mutual advantage: the Hall itself, its audience members and even the streets outside become part of a world conjured up by Outside Edge. You don’t have to be a social worker to work out why they call them ‘Rockston’ stories.

By David Trennery 

Rockston Stories is on at Hoxton Hall until Saturday 17th October. For more information visit: https://www.hoxtonhall.co.uk/rockston-stories/ . 

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