As the world’s largest performance arts festival kicks off for 2023, we are lucky to have theatre practitioner and critic Masha Tiunova in Edinburgh bringing her reflections on the best recovery shows in Edinburgh.
Callum’s journey through addiction starts innocently in the pub where he’s working and ends with him in hospital narrowly avoiding death. In between, we hear about the first drink with his teenage friend, his career as an artist, a period of unemployment and his moving back with his parents as an adult prior to admission into hospital.
“THIRST”, a solo performance by Callum Patrick Hughes, showcases his life, addiction, and passions through songs and spoken word for a captivating hour. The will plays at Pleasance Courtyard until August 28th.
Callum’s story is compelling – what is more powerful than death? Most striking is the warmth with which he talks about the different aspects of his life. The audience is transported to all the moments, people and places that Callum holds dear. His childhood friend Adonis Josh who later dies because of his addiction, for example. Or the Hollybush pub where he performed his first song, his Dad, providing him with a pair of spoons…and a Specsavers glasses case to take care of his instruments. And of course, there’s the New Year kiss with his first celebrity crush Felicity Kendal.
What makes Callum’s delivery so remarkable is how he injects humour into the tales of his past, without ever being self-deprecating. So often when people in recovery describe their lives, it’s black and white, before and after, bad and good. Callum steps away from this dichotomy, as well as the linear narrative.
In the show, he takes us through his childhood moments, tell us about the love of music he found as a little boy, and his fondness for his friends and family. After nearly losing his life, he chose to treat himself with love, and this is his message to a recovering addict – it’s written plainly on his T-shirt, (in case, for some reason, you don’t get the message via spoken word and music.) Callum is a powerful yet gentle storyteller, he takes the audience on the journey and creates a safer space for them to arrive at love, as the final destination.
One of the things highly valued in sobriety is honesty, and Callum’s performance is entirely honest – both in terms of its content and its form. The only prop Callum uses is his guitar, just like he did in his first performance at Hollybush pub. He has come a long way since then, making it in theatre as an actor, writer and musician for over a decade in a variety of genres. However, ‘Thirst’, his first solo show opts for sincerity over theatricality, blending music and words seamlessly – we imagine in a way a younger version of Callum would admire.
Callum’s story is relatable to the people struggling with addiction. Who of us hasn’t thought ‘Oh, I’m not as bad as my alcoholic friend’ or when asked about our drinking wouldn’t like to retort “I’m really good at it” ? Callum destigmatises addiction, because behind the glass you can see a little boy with love for music and noise in his head, and encourages us to have more compassion ‘for the suffering alcoholic’.
He’s alive. And he can still choose love.
THIRST is on at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until August 28th. More details can be found here
About the author:
Masha is a facilitator, applied theatre and narrative practitioner, and a business consultant with a background in Strategy and People & Culture. Her interest in arts-based facilitation drove her to an MA in Applied Theatre at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. Masha’s dissertation focused on drag as a methodology for staging personal stories. Together with Central classmates, she started Tana Theatre Company and is taking their first show, TANA, to Edinburgh Fringe. Masha started her recovery in Moscow in 2009 and has been in 12-steps programs since then.
“My Edinburgh Festival blog posts are not quite reviews but rather reflections. The reason for this is I look at the show from at least two perspectives: that of theatre, both as a practitioner and a reviewer, and that of recovery, both as a writer for Performing Recovery and a person in recovery. I hope it will provide fresh insights into the work. There are many acclaimed theatre critics out there who have already praised this work. Mine is a recovery angle that allows me find the moments that might have been missed otherwise.”