Stage all set to help ex-addicts

PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 January 2013

Drama group set up to help recovering addicts, Lewis Coleman,Natasha Williams,Sue Campbell,Juliet Innes and Antony Evans.

Drama group set up to help recovering addicts, Lewis Coleman,Natasha Williams,Sue Campbell,Juliet Innes and Antony Evans.

Archant

TWO men who became friends during their time in a rehab centre have set up a theatre group to encourage other recovering addicts to use the stage to help the community ‘see the people, not just the addiction’.

Louis Coleman and Antony Evans admit they have faced hard times in their past, plunging into dark moments fuelled by their addictions.

But through their recovery both realised their periods of solace have come from an unlikely place – the stage.

Theatre has been a big part of their lives, helping them express their feelings and achieve a sense of accomplishment, which is something they want to spread in the community.

Louis, aged 33, of Hudson Street, Burnham, began his acting career at the age of 10, performing in school plays.

His love of the stage led him to study performing art at a college in the Midlands before being accepted onto a course at London Metropolitan University at the age of 21.

He said: “I did not finish the course due to my addiction.

“I’ve since realised it came from the fact that I did not feel accepted by my family.

“When I went to university I found the stress of it really tough. Socially I was very awkward and after a while I found myself drinking all day.

“At 22 I went home and entered a psychiatric ward to get treatment.”

After his detox period Louis made it his mission to combat his addiction and he then secured himself a role in a production of Billy Elliot which would tour Italy.

The next year he was offered a part in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, but turned down the role when his father became ill.

He said: “For the next five years I looked after my dad until he passed away, which kick-started my alcoholism again quite badly.

“At that point I thought I’m either going to do this again and die or I’m going to have to sort my life out.

“I got in touch with a counsellor, who suggested rehab and relocation. I moved to Burnham on my 31st birthday.”

Louis then began his rehabilitation treatment in the town, which is where he met Antony.

Antony, aged 33, of Adam Street, has been in recovery for almost two years and was excited when Louis suggested creating a theatre group. It was something Antony had always wanted to do.

Louis said: “I was doing some voluntary work at The Princess Theatre (in Burnham) at the time and the manager was very supportive of the idea.

“I thought that, as Antony had been in recovery for longer, it would be great to have someone stronger on board.

“Rehab made me think back on the past and made me realise that acting had helped me cope.

“Acting was my first drug in a way, and theatre was also a way to express my feelings. It gave me a lift.

“The times that theatre was not in my life were the hardest.”

The pals have now set up the Blue Sky Theatre group, which meets at the Princess Theatre, in Princess Street, and are now devising their first play.

Antony said: “We have a set group of people and are now working on a drama set at a residents’ meeting.

“We are working on characters at the moment but, in a nutshell, the play discusses the local problems of addictions in the community.

“Throughout that it becomes clear some of the people in the meeting have had their own addictions.

“It’s a way of educating the public in an entertaining way.”

Antony said this play is a way for him to express his feelings and hopes the group will help others do so.

He said: “Since I was a child acting is something I’ve always wanted to do. I did a lot of plays at school but was never able to it as an adult.

“Myself, I do not feel comfortable expressing certain feelings such as anger, but I can do it if I’m taking on another character.

“It’s very cathartic. While we are devising this play, everyone has their own character and it’s surprising how much personal stuff comes out.

“It’s also for a sense of achievement for putting something together.

“Hopefully this will educate people about addiction and break down the misconceptions and help others to see the people not just their problems.”

Blue Sky Theatre hopes to put its show on stage in March or April next year, which will possibly open up a space for more people to join and get involved in the action.


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