Enjoying a five-day run at The Lowry (and with dates booked at a further four venues around the country), playwright Leo Butler’s latest piece All You Need Is LSD delves into the truths and myths of hallucinogenic drug-taking. Here Leo (pictured on the left in rehearsals) tells us a bit more about the processes involved in getting the play ‘out there’.

The play’s blurb calls it ‘part history, part wild fantasy’ – how much is really real?
Well, “nothing is real” – as John Lennon once sang – especially when you have actors pretending to be other people on a pretend set with pretend lights. Let’s just say that everything you’ll see in the play is both completely real and complete b*ll*cks.

You were ‘a guinea pig in the world’s first LSD medical trials since the 1960s’, run by Professor David Nutt – did he approach you to take part or was it the other way round?
David famously worked as Drugs Tsar for Gordon Brown’s government, and was kicked out for saying that horse riding is more dangerous than Ecstasy, which is statistically true. I wanted to meet him as research for the play, and it was a happy accident that it was just as they were about to start testing LSD on volunteers.

Describe the procedure involved and what, if any, were the effects of the experiment?
A full day in a private room in a hospital. Injected with pure LSD just after breakfast, and then led through a series of very gentle psychological tests – including testing for emotional responses to music, regression and visualisation exercises – until early evening. But I’d pretty much lost track of time by then.

How did you feel after? In other words, were your perceptions altered?
The old myth of seeing ‘pink elephants’, or whatever, is nonsense – unless you’re taking it with a bunch of pink elephants. Taking LSD is, as Aldous Huxley said, like having your perceptions cleansed or detoxed or whatever. You really tell the difference between things that are man-made and things that are natural – which can be very odd and very funny if you attempt to do normal things like going to buy a pint of milk and a Twix, or can be mind-blowingly fantastic if you’re with friends or in nature.

The play raises many issues. Do you think a psychedelic approach to the relief of conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety is a viable option for the future? Is legalisation a possibility?
Absolutely. I think most drugs should be decriminalised. It’s ridiculous that the most dangerous drug of all – alcohol – is completely normalised in our society, while other drugs which have enormous medicinal and therapeutic potential are demonised. I also believe people should have the choice to use certain drugs – particularly psychedelics – for pleasure, so long as there’s clear education about the dos and don’ts (the same rules and attitudes that we have toward drugs like booze and sugar).

Read our preview of All You Need Is LSD here.

Tue 6 – Sat 10 Nov, The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ, Tel: 0843 208 6000, 8pm, £10-12, www.thelowry.com

Tue 6 Nov - Sat 10 Nov
Sarah-Clare Conlon
Published on:
Mon 29 Oct 2018