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My Name is Bill
Published on Monday, 16 August 2010

5 stars

theSpaces on the Mile @ The Radisson (venue website)
6 - 15 Aug (not 8), 11.45am (12.50pm)
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

A magnificent and inspiring performance, this show succeeds on many counts: the script is intelligent, convincing and excellently written, and the one-man performance is delivered with passion and a powerful understated conviction.  The sparse set – the one expected prop is a glass of G&T – nevertheless leaves nothing to be figured out; so skilfully drawn are the characters who feature in this monologue, that I am transported to the Mayflower Hotel lobby in 1935.

Bill is written and also played by Bryan Bounds, himself a recovering alcoholic who describes himself to be lucky to be alive. Tragically, that's more than can be said for some members of his family: the play is described as a memorial to his late brother. His inside knowledge perhaps accounts for the insightful description of some of the psychological attributes of an addict, many of which might confound popular expectation – not least the sheer force of willpower of anyone in pursuit of recovery.

Bill’s discovery that he has a physical allergy to alcohol, which creates a craving replicated in his mind – by which he feels imprisoned – explains an alcoholic tendency. The power of mental commitment to breaking the pattern and ‘rewiring’ is imparted, a discovery which is accepted and promoted by self-development programmes as well as treatment these days.

Bill's personal history includes the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step programme which is so much a part of contemporary life, whether applied to alcohol or any other addiction. Bill exemplifies the potential power of one man to change the world – in this case by recognising the potential power of enlisting the support of others, starting with his doctor.

A tale of an "extraordinary loser" and alcoholic is not necessarily one which will pull a huge crowd.  Yet Bill performed to about 25 on the day I attended – a good turnout for theatre before midday. An insight into the illness which is alcoholism surely has relevance as well to a society in which alcoholics are often given short shrift. With this play, Bryan Bounds has the potential for engendering change, just as his historic mentor did before him; I wish him luck.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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