Recovery songs pack a powerful punch

Story by Fran Belbin

Ralph Dartford’s Recovery Songs recounts the story of how he spiralled into addiction, using spoken narrative and poetry.

In a hugely powerful performance, Ralph tells of an outwardly successful theatrical career, the heady heights of showbiz parties and being nearly sure he’s snogged Siobhan from Bananarama.

But the partying is fuelled by enormous amounts of booze and drugs, leading to lost friendships and broken relationships, the loss of eye-watering sums of money, political hypocrisy and a desperate call to the Samaritans. The play is directed by Burngreave resident Sam Humphrey. He told the Messenger:

“Working with Ralph on this project has been a fantastic journey into the power of language and theatre to convey the extreme dark and blinding light of the human experience. As Ralph states near the beginning of the show, ‘I’m trying to turn a tragedy into a victory, and I need your help.’

“Ralph is an extremely talented poet. Making sure his words were heard clearly was my primary purpose. His story is testament to the maxim ‘truth is stranger than fiction,’ so there were many opportunities during the hour for us to develop physical theatre pieces demonstrating the claustrophobic, frustrating and frankly sometimes insane life of an active addict. “Many people do not realise that addiction and alcoholism are in fact illnesses. Not only that, but treatable illnesses, though that treatment is a lifelong process. We hope this show will help people to help themselves or others. It’s also meant to take any audience member on a cathartic journey of selfdiscovery.” Ralph Dartford explained:

“Recovery Songs is an ongoing project and it is envisaged that it will be performed for many years to come. The story is always changing as I distance myself further and further away from active addiction. I would imagine if one of the same audience members sees the show in five years’ time, it will be very different. It would still have its powerful punch, but newer elements are bound to be added.”

Ralph had been clean for just over a year when he gave his two performances of Recovery Songs at Burngreave Library. Funds raised went to the library and to tour the play around the country, in theatres and also in rehab centres with the aim of supporting others recovering from addiction. His poetry can be read at

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