As the world’s largest performance arts festival is underway, we are lucky to have theatre practitioner and critic Masha Tiunova in Edinburgh bringing her reflections on the best recovery shows at the festival.

Tom Moran’s show catches you by surprise – why would someone have their appendix removed just not to go to school? This might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but he has just said he’s a ‘fucking liar’ who wants to stop lying but still have people like him. Tom’s people-pleasing habits go from being a ‘teacher’s pet’ as a child to having sex in secret, apologising to his assaulters to developing eating disorders and drinking habits to the extent of pissing on someone’s passport. 

“The question is never ‘Why the addiction?’ but ‘Why the pain,’ suggests Gabor Mate, an expert in addiction and trauma, placing trauma at the heart of all addictive behaviours. 

Moving from the centre of the stage to a confession-booth spotlight in the corner, Tom answers ‘why’. His behaviours, which eventually led him to therapy, are rooted in the feelings that relate to childhood trauma. Tom’s story makes complete sense to anyone who has ever attended Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) meetings.

ACA is a 12-step program that serves any adult whose childhood needs were not met, not necessarily because of parental addiction or evil intent, but maybe because a parents’ own unresolved issues made providing a safe environment for their children challenging. 

Many children confronted with their parents’ inability to sustain their world take this responsibility on their own shoulders. Tom’s recollection of praying for everyone to be okay is an example of the start of this journey. “Becoming approval seekers and losing identity in the process” is one of the traits of ACA. Another one is being ‘addicted to excitement’, meaning getting addicted to the cocktail of lies, shame, guilt and fear. “I just want to stop feeling all these feelings,” Tom says to his therapist.

Tom demonstrates his maturity not only by going to therapy, but also by accepting that his parents were doing their best. “The truth is being a parent is scary.” As a person with heavy family background but also a mother in recovery, I very much relate to this. 

Another demonstration of this maturity is how he helps the audience to navigate the show safely. The moves between the front light and spotlight and a corner position of the stage signal when more sensitive topics are covered. Tom’s is a story that needs to be told and it is told with care and concern for the audience.

‘Tom Moran is a Big Fat Filthy Disgusting Liar ’ runs at Pleasance Below in Pleasance Courtyard at 15:10 Aug 16-28 link

“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 to find the moments that might have been missed otherwise.”





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