A new play telling the stories of two very different people with addiction in Swansea, SORTER has opened at the city’s Grand Theatre, running through to Friday 10th March.

A nurse reaches for the controlled drugs cabinet to erase the pain of childhood trauma. A long-term addict drowns out the voices in her head by taking tomorrow’s sorter early. As these two lives cross and intersect on the streets of Swansea, the play asks whether either of them can escape the cycle of shame and invites audiences to wonder if they just might be each other’s salvation. An insightful study of legal and illegal opioid addiction; Grand Ambition’s first original production asks us if there is such a thing as an “acceptable” addict, and why as a society do we make a distinction?

SOPHIE MELVILLE (Royal Court, Shakespeare’s Globe) will play Example A, fresh from success with the Lyric Hammersmith, National Theatre, 59E59 New York and Sherman Theatre co-production of Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott, which recently took the number one spot in The Guardian’s theatre review of 2022.

Grand Ambition director RICHARD MYLAN (Waterloo Road, Doctors, Coupling), who wrote Sorter as a way of coming to terms with his own 20-year battle with heroin addiction, will take the role of Example B.

Both actors were born and bred in Swansea.

Sorter will be directed by another Swansea native, FRANCESCA GOODRIDGE (Barn Theatre, Theatr Clwyd); who has just been appointed Associate Director of Theatr Clwyd.

Francesca told us why she was drawn to the project, the first professional production she will have premiered in her hometown…..

“I’m a Swansea girl, born and bred and so when I first read Sorter, I felt so excited and moved by a play that puts voices of Swansea on the centre stage. Sorter, much like Swansea, is unapologetically beautiful and ugly in equal measure. It’s a huge-moment-in-Welsh theatre, kind of script. It explores the lives of two very different people, who for all of their experiences, dreams, and faults- aren’t as dissimilar as we first think.

It asks us, the audience, to really question our opinion of people living with addiction and encourages us to really see them. To see past our pre-determined opinion because of their circumstances, but to actually try to see the humanity. I think it’s incredibly important for audiences to see themselves and their community represented on stage. To better understand the people they pass on the street day to day, and to leave the theatre feeling like they have discovered something new about themselves and about the place they live, and ultimately, love.”

Francesca Goodridge

To complement the production, Grand Ambition has paired with recovery charity Adferiad and housing association Pobl for an outreach and awareness project. Richard Mylan said…….

“I wrote Sorter for myself initially; it’s been a crucial part of my recovery from heroin addiction. But I struggled to put myself central in the first person because of how stigma around addiction has affected me. So I went to a very familiar place and lived my experience vicariously through two characters. The process ended up being incredibly cathartic and healing. It ultimately allowed me to make sense of an extremely chaotic period of my life. Researching & writing Sorter has been instrumental in my understanding of this.

Addiction itself can rob you of ambition, of opportunity, added to that, the stigma around addiction means that you are generally denied the chance of reconnecting with your ambition and opportunity, because stigma almost brands you for life as unworthy, untrustworthy, underserving of opportunity, of wanting to progress. It’s why I didn’t speak publicly about my addiction in the past. Stigma is the root cause of a distinct societal lack of empathy and understanding. We have to challenge that. If we shift the stigma, we shift recovery towards more meaningful, prosperous outcomes that reconnect people more to who they really are.

My hope is that Sorter will help others struggling with addiction, those in recovery & the friends & family who battle with them. I very much hope it will help people and organisations in Swansea challenge their empathy response to people with addiction, why we consider some forms of addiction to be more socially acceptable than others. I hope it will lead to a bigger conversation where all addictions are treated equally with empathy, dignity & understanding.”

Sorter is designed by JACOB HUGHES (National Theatre, Young Vic, Royal Court) with lighting design by CARA HOOD (Leeway Productions, Theatr na nÓg). The production has received lottery funding from Welsh Government through Arts Council Wales Create scheme. The production has also received funding from Tŷ Cerdd, Music Centre Wales for the commissioning of tracks from prog rock duo ChimpanA (Rob Reed and Grand Ambition director Steve Balsamo), to create asoundtrack for Sorter, alongside sound design from Russell Ditchfield (Theatr Clwyd).

Grand Ambition was established in 2021 in partnership with Swansea Council to become the resident producing and community engagement company at the city’s Swansea Grand Theatre and Brangwyn Hall, a partnership which continues as Grand Ambition develops as a project funded community interest company.

You can find out more in our feature HERE.

SORTER has a very limited run at Swansea Grand Theatre. Performances including matinees will run until Friday 10th March. Tickets are strictly limited with various ticket pricing options available, from pay what you can allocations to £14. Tickets are now available from Swansea Grand Theatre HERE or you can give the box office a call on 01792 475715.

Every performance will be captioned, BSL interpreter JULIE DOYLE will interpret performances on the 3rd and 9th. Age guidance 16+, contains strong language and adult themes. See website for content warnings.