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Peter Cook - Breaking the Castle Interview

After a fantastic Fringe run, Breaking the Castle is heading to London with its moving true story of addiction, brought to life in a hilarious, uplifting and poignant one-man show.  This will run as part of the Pleasance’s Best of Edinburgh season in London, which brings together some of the best and brightest productions from the festival, and for four nights at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Writer and performer Peter Cook draws from his own life experiences in this tour-de-force performance of a struggling actor battling debilitating mental health and descending into a world of addiction – illuminating the broader struggles of those who live on the edges, and the inequalities in the addiction and recovery cycle.

Breaking The Castle is a work of compassion, drawing on Cook’s lived experiences, creating a gripping tale of undeniable authenticity.  This visceral, funny and inspiring production cuts across class, gender and race, getting to the heart of human complexity in a story that people across the world can relate to, no matter their background.

Ahead of the shows in London we caught up with Peter to discuss the show.

What first inspired you to write Breaking the Castle?
The time I spent in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It made me understand that addiction affects people from all cultural backgrounds, social classes and ages. The people I was using with on the streets were no different to the people I met in rehab, just some had access to money and the others didn’t. To me this highlighted the inequalities in the addiction-recovery cycle and that addiction doesn’t discriminate. I knew the play would work after the first read at  initial creative development, where you could have heard a pin drop, which was surprising but pleasing. 

The piece is quite a personal tale of addiction and mental health. How did you approach turning those experiences into the show that it has become?
That was quite a long process. There is over 100 pages of material that didn’t make the final draft. I just wrote what I thought was interesting and then the director and dramaturge at the initial creative development would give feedback and we’d go from there. Writing it was cathartic, and the more I wrote the less personal it became and it was just writing a play and the doing the best job I could. After the initial read the audience gave really helpful feedback on what the piece needed and I took those notes and worked on them. They really wanted to understand how the rehab process worked so I wrote scenes around that process.

How do you reflect on the Edinburgh Fringe run and experience?
Edinburgh was tough - there is no doubt about it and I think most performers would agree. I’m really glad I did it though, it toughened me up as an actor and producer and it showed me that the play connects with international audiences. Edinburgh feels like a world away but it was a massive, life-changing experience.

Does the intensity of a Fringe run allow for you to further develop the material?
Not really in my case, the show has had four seasons in Australia so it was pretty tested, However the fringe show is different to the longer version we toured in Australia and it still worked, which was great.

You now bring the show to London, how excited are you to do so on the back of the Fringe runs?
Really excited for London. This is a dream come true. I can't wait to see how London audiences respond.

What keeps you inspired as a creative?
I guess in regards to Breaking The Castle it’s just knowing that it genuinely has an affect on audiences. People laugh and cry and go out of their way to tell me it has changed how they see addicts and addiction, which means it is making real change. Knowing the play is having a positive impact in the world keeps me inspired. 

What would you like an audience to take away from seeing Breaking the Castle?
I want them to laugh and cry and to be challenged. I want them to reflect on their own life, and on how they see others. I want them to know it’s ok to be who they are to feel what they are feeling in their lives and to maybe leave the theatre 
wanting to be more compassionate to themselves and others. 

Breaking The Castle plays at Main House Cabaret - Pleasance London Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th October 2023, 7:00pm and at Old Red Lion Theatre from 7th to 11th November 2023. Tickets are available from or

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