Culture, Entertainment, Manchester

Theatre Review: Reasons to Stay Alive @ HOME

0 29

By: Rebecca Byatt


Inspired by the Sunday Times bestselling book of the same name, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ takes the audience on an emotional journey of euphoric highs and crushing lows, following Matt Haig’s painfully true story of his battle with depression.

Written by April De Angelis and reimagined for the stage by Jonathan Watkins, who was inspired by the book’s “theatrical potential” due to its “shifting relationship with time and the mix of a personal story with practical advice”, the show highlights many issues that society needs to address regarding mental health.

As the show opens, we see a younger Matt (Mike Noble) on the edge of a cliff in Ibiza about to take his own life. However, an older Matt (Phil Cheadle) manages to reassure him that it is not the right thing to do. Younger Matt then moves back home to live with his parents in England along with his girlfriend Andrea (Janet Etuk), however, we see depression and anxiety begin to consume his life.

We are later introduced to Matt’s mother (Connie Walker) and father (Chris Donnelly), who remind us of the dated, stereotypical British ‘chip up’ attitude to mental illness. Matt’s mother makes a fish pie as it is “his favourite and would always cheer him up as a child”, and Matt’s parents keep reassuring each other that “everything will be ok”.

Credit: Johan Persson

One moment in particular which strikingly exposes the reality of living with a mental illness is when Matt offers to go to the corner shop alone to get some milk. As he arrives at the shop he suffers his first panic attack and shouts, “this isn’t a walk to the shop, it’s an Apollo 13 mission!”

The set and cast of the show are limited, but this isn’t really noticeable as they both adapt to the moving narrative and are utilised well. It means the production feels far more personal, which the story lends itself to.

The clever use of sound and lighting at times resonates with the inner turmoil of Matt. Slower movements and the sound of breathlessness make it feel as if you are experiencing your own panic attacks, and the pounding heart effects onstage depict the otherwise unimaginable levels of Matt’s anxiety. 

The show does a remarkable job of breaking down stereotypes and stigmas about mental health, especially amongst men, and refuses to depict it with the sugar coating that we are normally all used to.

Credit: Johan Persson

Whilst it plays on irony and at times has the audience in fits of laughter, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ also hits home about our tendencies to ignore mental health as an illness, which it addresses head-on with discussions such as ‘things that happened that generated more sympathy than depression’ and listing ridiculous suggestions such as, ‘living in Hull in January’, ‘breaking a toe’ and ‘consuming a poisoned prawn’.

The production kept the audience hooked throughout and was received with an enormous round of applause.

Credit: Johan Persson

About the author / 

aAh!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Live Review: Vampire Weekend @ Victoria Warehouse

    By Ellie Tyson Vampire Weekend was back in Manchester for the first time in six years to perform at the bustling Victoria Warehouse, on the second night of their UK tour for their newest album, Father of the Bride. The crowd was a mixed bag, from big groups of teenagers to middle-aged couples with their…

  • On the Horizon: November to December event listings

    By Rachel Crowley Ice Village Cathedral Gardens, City Centre: 8th November – 5th January Perhaps the epitome of the festive season in Manchester. Enjoy an icy cocktail in the Ice Tiki Bar, or try to avoid any broken bones skating around the Ice Cavern. Feast your eyes on over 250 tonnes of ice carved by…

  • Review: The Guilty Feminist @ Manchester Podcast Festival

    By Robert Drepaul Photography: Chris Payne What a Guilty Pleasure! The Dancehouse Theatre hosted one of the star attractions of the Manchester Podcast Festival on the 5th of November – The Guilty Feminist, hosted by the charismatic Deborah Frances-White. A captivating tone was set for the evening from the start, as excited chatter flitted around…

  • Preview: Mac DeMarco begins headline UK tour, including date in Manchester

    By Ben TownsendPhotography: Georgina Hurdsfield The Canadian king of chill, Mac DeMarco, will soon embark on a headline winter tour across the United Kingdom to promote his latest album, Here Comes The Cowboy (2019), stopping off at Manchester’s O2 Apollo on 23rd November. The 29-year old singer-songwriter will also play his very first headline arena show…