Exploring the greatest new and classic plays


082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

Jun 20, 2024 | Podcast Episodes | 0 comments

Duncan Macmillan’s play, People, Places & Things, is an unflinching portrait of the real struggle and pain of battling addiction, as well as an exploration of how we seek to define our identity to our self and to anyone else. The play premiered at the National Theatre in 2015, before transferring to the West End the following year, and then on to New York a year later. Denise Gough won awards for her electrifying performance as the disturbed actress, Emma, and as we record this episode she is reprising her role nearly a decade on at the Trafalgar theatre in London’s West End. It is an unforgettable, virtuoso performance: fierce, funny, poignant and technically completely commanding.

Duncan Macmillan was surprised by the play’s initial commercial success, saying “it’s about a difficult person, being difficult to other people who are in a difficult situation!” It is a fascinating, funny and challenging play, and an exhilarating piece of theatre.

The current revival is directed by Jeremy Herrin, who also directed the original production. I am therefore especially delighted to be able to talk in this episode with both the author, Duncan Macmillan, and the play’s director, Jeremy Herrin.

Duncan Macmillan

Duncan Macmillan’s plays include Lungs from 2011, which was revived in 2019 at the Old Vic with Claire Foy and Matt Smith, and then live streamed from the empty auditorium in the early days of Covid in June 2020; his adaptation of 1984 co-written with Robert Icke; People, Places & Things; 2071 (co-written with Chris Rapley); Every Brilliant Thing, with Jonny Donahoe, which was a break-out hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014, and which returns to Edinburgh ten years on in 2024; Rosmersholm (adapted from Ibsen); An Enemy of the People (English version of Thomas Ostermeier’s adaptation of Ibsen); City of Glass (adapted from Paul Auster).

We covered Lungs in episode 7 of the podcast: 07 Lungs
We covered An Enemy of the People in episode 77 of the podcast: 077 An Enemy of the People

Recommended Play
Duncan recommended Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris.


Photo by Natasha Krstic-Howe
Jeremy Herrin
Jeremy Herrin has been a director of Live Theatre Newcastle, The Royal Court, and Headlong theatre companies. Highlights of his distinguished career include directing People, Places & Things (National Theatre, West End and New York); Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies for the RSC; James Graham’s plays This HouseLabour of Love and Best of Enemies (West End); A Mirror (Almeida and Trafalgar Theatre); Ulster American (Riverside Studios); All My Sons (The Old Vic); The Visit, The Plough and the Stars; Statement of Regret (National Theatre); The Nether, That Face, South Downs, Absent Friends, Death and the Maiden,The Glass Menagerie (West End); The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe); Junkyard, The Absence of War (Headlong); Observe the Sons Marching Towards the Somme (International Tour); Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith); Haunted Child, The Heretic, Kin, Spur of the Moment, Off the Endz, The Priory, Tusk Tusk, The Vertical Hour (Royal Court); The Moderate Soprano (Hampstead); Marble (The Abbey Dublin); The Family Reunion (Donmar Warehouse).

Jeremy is a founding director of Second Half Productions.

Recommended Play
Jeremy recommended The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt.
Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on Duncan Macmillan’s devastating and humane portrait of addiction, People, Places & Things, include observations on Emma’s propensity to lie, and on how she uses her intelligence to resist the prescribed treatments and to delude herself.

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The Texts
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