Imagine taking many different viewpoints on addiction – recovering addicts, those hurt by addicts, an addict in denial – popping them all in a jam jar together and giving that jar a friendly shake. You might end up with Nick Grosso’s new play.
Set in a Saturday night suburban sitting room – X-Factor on the telly, curry on the go, sofa not quite big enough for everyone to squeeze onto – Ingredient X brings together a group of friends for a quiet evening of stress-free entertainment; a few drinks and a chat.
The house is owned by couple Frank (James Lance) and Katie (Indira Varma); he is a recovering drug addict without a job, she is a mum of two previously married to a rock star also addicted to drugs. Lisa Palfrey’s bright, chirpy Deanne has four kids by four fathers, while Lesley Sharp’s outspoken Rosanna is haunted by the actions of her ex-husband, also an addict.
It is Rosanna who is the blue touch paper for every argument and discussion, a firecracker of a character who Sharp imbues with a slurring, aggressive bullying not unlike her recent West End turn as Mari in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, though coming from a more well-meaning place. Here, every time she opens her mouth it is like someone has won the jackpot on an opinions fruit machine; they clatter out noisily one after the other while everyone else stands back and watches in amazement.
Varma’s Katie is a quiet soul, always willing to fight the addicts’ corner, no matter how much stress it puts her under. Lance’s Frank accepts everything fired his way as some sort of penance for his previous problems, while Palfrey’s Deanne, for all her lively, good-natured, irresistible enthusiasm, is silently more troubled than the rest.
Director Deborah Bruce injects the required pace into Grosso’s quick-fire banter, which, though good natured, exposes the insecurities of every one of the friends.
Ingredient X is not a show that offers answers; the shaken jam jar lets the opinions settle how they will. One thing is certain; having heard their troubles and those of their neighbours, I would not want to live on that street.