Culture, Entertainment, Manchester

Theatre Review: Reasons to Stay Alive @ HOME

0 36

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 / 


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.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

More News Stories:

  • Album Review: ‘Fragile Skeleton’ by Bloodhound

    Despite the fact their new debut album is called Fragile Skeleton, Bloodhound has showcased the earth-shattering strength in their sound and proven that they’re only just getting started. Hailing from Hull, the band has been honing their skills since their formation in 2015, actively taking inspiration from bands such as Drenge, Queens of The Stone…

  • Opinion: The Complicated Tragedy of Caroline Flack’s Death

    Born in Enfield, Greater London, on the 9th of November 1979 to Ian Flack and Christine Callis, Caroline Flack was the youngest of four children. In 2014, Caroline won the 12th season of Strictly Come Dancing and went on to host prime-time TV shows such as X Factor and Love Island. Yesterday, Caroline was found…

  • Album of the Week: Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’

    Despite the fact that Tame Impala’s new record The Slow Rush is their first offering to the music world in five years, synth maestro Kevin Parker has been nothing short of busy. From working with the likes of Lady Gaga, Travis Scott and Mark Ronson to headlining Coachella, it’s any wonder that Parker had the…

  • Jessica Andrews Wins The Portico Prize 2020

    Debut novelist Jessica Andrews is crowned the winner of the Portico Prize 2020, for her book Saltwater. Jessica Andrews’ book Saltwater wins this year’s £10,000 Portico Prize – the UK’s only award for outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North. Saltwater, published by Sceptre, is a story of self-discovery by a girl…

aAH! Radio