‘I’m living my life now, where before I was just existing’

DARREN BALFE said he didn’t have to act much to play a drug addict casually traumatising ordinary people by robbing them on the street.

“I’ve been out there doing all that stuff, it makes it easier to play the part,” said the 30-year-old recovering drug user.

Darren has one of the lead roles in a new film short created by an innovative voluntary project which uses art in the recovery of dependent drug users.

RADE (Recovery through Art, Drama and Education) worked with writer and director Pom Boyd to produce a short film that boasts some impressive acting and an authenticity.

The short tells the story of two couples, centred around Darren’s character – Lazer – and a struggling busker, Billy, played by Gary Nolan.

Both men show genuine acting ability as do many others, including Frank James and Joan O’Rourke who convincingly, and hilariously, play street drunks.

The comedy drama, entitled Hard Day, got a great reception when played before up to 200 community drug workers and recovering drug users at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin yesterday.

Last night it was shown to the Drugs Minister Pat Carey and local councillors.

“Lazer is a good bloke,” says Darren. “While he’s pulled one way by crime, he’s pulled another way by his girlfriend. The film shows that when people are caught up in addiction they’ve no control over their minds. All their thinking about is money, where will I get my next money.

“But it also shows that as people they are good. It’s just the drugs that makes them out to be bad people, it’s nothing to do with the person.”

Darren, from the south inner city, said he started taking drugs at 15 and moved onto heroin and benzodiazepines (his “biggest problem”), before going onto methadone.

“Before the course, I was doing nothing and if I wasn’t doing nothing I’d be in town hanging around people doing drugs, then I’d do drugs. It was a vicious circle.”

RADE director Michael Egan said, in the film, they wanted to “try and break the negative label” of people who have or have had a dependency on drugs.

“It’s tied in with the overall aim of reducing drug related harm for both the participants and for society at large.” He said art was one activity this group of people “embrace quite happily”.

Darren is looking forward to doing a professional film editing course: “I’m doing great. I’m living my life now, where before I was just existing.”

* www.rade.ie


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