Everything you need to know about People, Places & Things

Denise Gough reprises her Olivier Award-winning performance in Duncan Macmillan's electrifying play, which returns for a run at the Trafalgar Theatre from May.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Duncan Macmillan’s indelible hit play People, Places & Things is making an exciting return to the West End this summer – and its original star is back too. Denise Gough will reprise her award-winning lead role as Emma, an actress and addict who crash-lands in rehab.

It’s an unmissable chance to see Gough reprise one of the great performances of the past decade, as she digs into knotty issues around recovery, identity, mental health, and redemption.

For this encore run at the Trafalgar Theatre in the West End, the show is once again directed by the acclaimed Jeremy Herrin and features an astonishing design by Bunny Christie, plunging you into Emma’s experience in an unforgettable fashion.

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What is People, Places & Things about?

The show opens with a play-within-a-play: actress Emma struggling to make it through Chekhov’s The Seagull. That drunken incident lands her in rehab, where she admits to taking, in the past 24 hours, everything from weed, speed, and gin to Valium and benzos.

But Emma fights the 12-step programme all the way. She furiously resists the Alcoholics Anonymous notion of a higher power, likening it to a spiritual cult, and it’s particularly tough for someone who enjoys the liberation of becoming someone else for a job to fully embrace a cold, hard reality.

Jeremy Herrin’s expressive production helps us see the world through Emma’s eyes, including the terror of cold turkey, the hallucinations and fears, and a gut-punch of an emotional ending. It’s also sharply funny: Emma is a mordantly witty guide on this fraught journey.

Where is People, Places & Things playing?

People, Places & Things is playing at the Trafalgar Theatre in London’s West End. The Trafalgar is situated in central London, close to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross station, and Leicester Square. The recently refurbished venue has a mid-sized capacity of 630 – perfect for this intimate tale.

When can I see People, Places & Things?

People, Places & Things is running at the Trafalgar Theatre from 3 May until 10 August 2024.

How long is People, Places & Things?

The running time of People, Places & Things is 2 hours and 20 minutes, including a 20-minute interval.

What days is People, Places & Things playing?

People, Places & Things plays six days a week at the Trafalgar Theatre, with matinee performances on Wednesday and Saturday, and evening performances Monday through Saturday. For the complete performance schedule and show times, visit the People, Places & Things page on London Theatre.

Major productions of People, Places & Things

The play had its world premiere in the Dorfman space at the National Theatre in 2015 (a co-production with company Headlong). The run began on 25 August and finished on 4 November. Denise Gough starred, and the show was directed by Jeremy Herrin.

Following both public and critical acclaim, People, Places & Things transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End in 2016, running from 15 March to 18 June.

The show then crossed the pond to St Ann’s Warehouse, an Off-Broadway venue in New York, in 2017 (again led by Gough). That year it also played at Manchester’s HOME, with Lisa Dwyer Hogg taking on the lead role.

People, Places & Things

What awards has People, Places & Things won?

Denise Gough won the Critics’ Circle Award for that premiere run at the National Theatre. The show was then nominated for four Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, and won two: for Gough’s lead performance and for Tom Gibbons’s haunting sound design.

The New York run picked up six nominations at the Drama Desk Awards, including for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Actress.

Who stars in the London production?

It’s a real coup for this fresh West End run to have lured back Gough, who has since impressed in everything from Angels in America (for which she won her second Olivier Award) to the Star Wars TV series Andor.

She’s joined by Sinéad Cusack (V for Vendetta), playing the key roles of Emma’s therapist and her mum, as well as an ensemble cast that features Kevin McMonagle (Scoop), Ryan Hutton (Only Fools and Horses), Malachi Kirby (Small Axe), and Danny Kirrane (The Serpent Queen).

People, Places & Things characters

Emma: The dominant character who leads us through the entire show. She’s a working actress whose life has been torn apart by her addiction to drugs and alcohol, and she has difficult relationships with her family.

Emma’s therapist/doctor/mum: All of the female authority figures in Emma’s life are played by the same actress – a masterstroke that you come to understand as the story unfolds.

Emma’s fellow addicts: We get to know several other people in rehab with Emma, such as veteran Mark, who initially conflict with her and then gradually aid and/or reflect her journey.

Who is in the People, Places & Things creative team?

British playwright Duncan Macmillan wrote People, Places & Things. His other work includes Lungs, which was recently revived with Matt Smith and Claire Foy, Every Brilliant Thing, and an adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four with Robert Icke.

People, Places & Things is directed by Jeremy Herrin. His numerous hit West End shows include This House, Labour of Love, Best of Enemies, the Amy Adams-starring The Glass Menagerie, and most recently A Mirror.

People, Places & Things has a phenomenal creative team: set design by Bunny Christie, costumes by Christina Cunningham, lighting by James Farncombe, music by Matthew Herbert, sound by Tom Gibbons, video by Andrzej Goulding, and movement by Polly Bennett.

Fun facts about People, Places & Things

• Wondering what the title means? The “people, places and things” are all particular triggers that might cause addicts to relapse, and so are to be avoided. By understanding the connection between those triggers and using, you can hopefully break the pattern.
• The show consciously layers in lots of ideas about theatre. That choice of Chekhov’s The Seagull is deliberate: the play is about actors and writers, so it’s yet another hall of mirrors for Emma – and for us.
• Designer Bunny Christie was hooked when she first read Macmillan’s stage description of Emma falling through the clouds, past the stars, and landing on a hospital gurney. Her interpretation of his immersive script is one of the genius elements here.
• The brilliant movement director Polly Bennett, who also makes a major impact, has since become the toast of Hollywood, working on projects such as Netflix’s The Crown, and movies Elvis, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Saltburn.

How do I book tickets for People, Places & Things?

Tickets for this astonishing play are now available for the strictly limited Trafalgar Theatre run. Don’t miss out on seeing Denise Gough’s powerhouse performance in this riveting production: get booking now.

Book People, Places & Things tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: People, Places & Things (Photo by Johan Persson)

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