York Theatre Royal – until 9 November 2019
Reviewed by Marcus Richardson
Depression has become a thing we talk a lot about in today’s society. Proper conversations on what depression is, and how it can affect anyone. Reasons to Stay Alive is the memoirs of the author Matt Haig and his own personal experiences with mental health issues which was published in 2015. English Touring Theatre have brought the number one bestseller to stage, with just a cast of six actors we delve into both the novel and how it helped people.
Starting in Ibiza, the land of modern day hedonism, we watch younger Matt (Mike Noble) party and suddenly delve into a major depressive episode. This show does not mess around, we are jumping straight into suicide. As Older Matt (Phil Cheadle) explores his past we have a contrast between him and his past self. This highlights how depression takes away any vision of tomorrow beautifully, Cheadle seems to be at peace with his depression and aims to educate both Noble and the audience on how he deals with life. Matts Journey wasn’t alone he had his girlfriend Andrea (Janet Etuk) by his side, the relationship between the two is great to watch on stage as we watch how she supports him and just simply is there for him. Etuk creates a kind welcoming character that people in the audience can relate to, we all know someone who at one point struggles with mental illness. I think everyone in the audience can relate to at least one character, whether it be Matt or those around him. There’s also his parents in the play, Mum (Connie Walker) and Dad (Chris Donnelly), also the actress Dilek Rose who plays multiple characters. There are moments in the play where signs will be held up which may read ‘lies depression tell you’ and the whole cast will talk about things to the audience, this works so well in drawing the audience in and making them aware of their own thoughts on depression. I loved how the cast brought all of the issues to the table but didn’t make things tragic.
The stage wasn’t filled with a busy set but instead had three sections that make up a sphere. Inside this white sphere are spikes which really stands out as intimidating, to me the set looks like a brain and the spikes were what depression is visualised as. The set moved, it was climbed and used in a fair few ways. I loved the simplicity of the set as it doesn’t draw away from the main topic of the play.
The play is great for opening up the conversation on depression, and making sure it’s not a taboo subject. Reasons to Stay Alive is a thought provoking play that is beautifully put together. Obviously this isn’t really suitable for younger audience as it has scenes of attempted suicide, however I would say it is suitable for those who are 16+. I loved watching it and was expecting to cry at the end, but not once did I find that the play burdened me with crying. The play is touring across the UK and is at York Theatre Royal until the 9th of November.