Review: Poisoned Polluted

Old Red Lion Theatre
5 star rating
A powerful, must see play that takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride with quick fire dialogue and emotional acrobatics, and superb scenes inspired by clever movement direction.
Poisoned Polluted at Old Red Lion Theatre

Image: Old Red Lion Theatre

Show details

Show information

Closed here Saturday 30 November 2019

Cast and creatives


Kathryn O'Reilly

Anna Doolan


Lucy Allan
Kathryn O'Reilly
Mayou Trikerioti
Nicola Chang
Sophie Shaw


“I have to fight back.

But I can't fight back.

It's so strong, the feeling is so strong.

I can't breathe and there's a tapping a light tapping that's when I wake.

I wake up.”

Two sisters struggle to survive in the wake of a toxic childhood, bound by the legacy of what has been before.

Each must find a way to build a life out of chaos.

But what happens when the ties that bind become the thing that holds you back?

Inextricably linked by blood, all they have is each other.


Kathryn O'Reilly's second play published by Nick Hern Books is a stark, bold, powerful and poetic drama looking at the effects on adult life of childhood trauma and the cycles of drug abuse.

Trigger warnings: Features strong language and scenes of an upsetting nature

ActDrop reviews

James Heracles

Performance date: Friday 22 November 2019
Review star rating image

Poisoned Polluted is a new one act play performed in the cosy space of the Old Red Lion's upstairs theatre.

We meet two sisters who flit backwards and forwards between present and past, remembering and reliving previous joys and horrors and struggling to keep the legacy of a drug addicted mother and an abusive father from polluting their lives.

Kathryn O' Reilly plays the older sister burdened with her memories and her need to protect her younger sister.

Anna Doolan, plays the sister and her struggle to support her sibling to get off drugs.

Their memories are ambivalent and constantly being renegotiated.

This is a powerful play that takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride through the push and pull, hopes and losses and realities of a life of addiction and it's devastating impact on family members.

Ms O'Reilly plays two superb silent scenes where clever movement direction (from Sophie Shaw) conveys first the highs of heroin and then withdrawal.

The dialogue is quick fire and oscillates between hope and playfulness to distress, anger and despair.

Ms Doolan engages the audience bringing them into the narrative whether it be in a dingy flat or in the local park, which is conveyed by a clever set (by Mayo Trikerioti) that shows the fragmented memories through peeling pictures of trees on A4 paper.

Ms Doolan does some wonderful emotional acrobatics flitting from joy to anxiety and from childhood to adulthood.

Kathryn O'Reilly's acting brings intensity and Ms Doolan has a versatility that suggests she is going places!

Ultimately this is a play that strips away any illusion of glamour associated with addiction, and it shines a bright light on the transgenerational family impact of abuse and addiction.

Definitely a must see play for anyone studying these things.

This is a one act play so plenty of time afterwards for a drink and have a hearty discussion about the issues.

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