Reasons to Stay Alive – new work articulating the effects of depression
In this world premiere production – Reasons to Stay Alive, accomplished actors make this narrative about the physical and mental effects of depression and anxiety work for a live audience.
This one act play is based on the true story of Matt Haig’s frank best selling account of his journey through crippling anxiety and depression. As he emerges from his worst times, he learns to appreciate what he has, including himself.
There is music and movement and the show is imagined for the stage by Jonathan Watkins, and adapted from the book by April De Angelis.
I haven’t read the book so I wasn’t comparing the play to it, which I think is probably a good thing. The novel has obviously struck a chord with people as it has been very popular. I can’t fault the actors commitment to the piece. In particular the two actors playing young Matt (Mike Noble) and and older Matt (Phil Cheadle) were outstanding.
Reasons to Stay Alive – depression can strike anyone.
I liked how he describes how he got little sympathy for his mental illness.‘Things I got more sympathy for than depression. A broken toe. Living in Hull in January.’ And I loved the bit where reading books by other depressed people gave him quotations to help him articulate his condition.
‘Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.’ Stephen King
There are some humorous bits along the way, but this is not a fun story. Matt seems to recover quite quickly after his first book is published, writing is his therapy I guess. A positive outlet for his racing mind and a placebo for his anxiety.
Through his journey, Matt comes to realise that he has reasons to stay alive all along. A loving family and partner, plus a talent he was able to use successfully.
Reasons to Stay Alive – getting mental illness out into the open
There is much more open discussion about mental illness than there used to be. Matt obviously experienced severe and identifiable physical symptoms. Mike Noble portrays this torture admirably. Sections of the narrative are also illustrated with some evocative choreography.
As a piece of theatre I did feel it was a little thin. Everyone in the story is good and supportive and sympathetic. There was not much light and shade. Apart from a demon licking his face, which also turned out to be quite friendly too. Matt’s girlfriend Andrea, seems to be pretty much a saint, and my feeling was that this was a very lucky manic depressive indeed. If that’s not an oxymoron.
For me this felt like a rather unfinished piece of work, but I applaud the cast who were outstanding and the overall intention. And anything which gets people talking about depression and its often devastating effects on people’s lives is good news too..
Northern Stage is my favourite theatre in Newcastle, the last show I saw here was Pride and Prejudice (sort of) and it was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time! heck out what else is on here.