In a world where statistics show that one in three young people suffer from mental health issues, Reasons to Stay Alive challenges the way we visualise depression and anxiety, and shares honestly what an individual must overcome to find inner peace.
The captivating storyline and hard hitting slogans scattered throughout the play allow audience members to really dig deep into the physique of our main protagonist, as well as feeling entrapped within themselves. Tight concave walls, mixed with looming set pieces create Younger Matt’s brain, bursting with scenes from his past, present and possible future. Mike Noble plays the role with little air and grace, which is needed to truly highlight the realistic trauma those with severe depression face daily, using his hands to tear at his bare skin, and his paralysed sense of movement gives the story life and true meaning. Phil Cheadle, who plays Older Matt, narrates the piece eloquently and draws audiences closer into the inner voices one may experience when battling mental health issues, as well as a guiding voice in keeping Younger Matt sane in an ever ‘noisy’ world.
Younger Matt experiences the hardships of confidently buying a pint of milk and supporting his girlfriend by staying put whilst she visits her ill mother, which can prove the simplest of tasks incredibly difficult for an individual close to breaking down. This also feeds into Matt’s family life, with his parents seemingly making an effort to understand their sons ‘problems’, yet these troubles go deeper than a mere pep talk can resolve. Even a trip to the clinic and vast array of medication cannot solve the pain that stares Matt in the face day after day. The suffering this also has upon his supportive girlfriend Andrea and family unit is hard to appreciate, but incredibly powerful to know such love and support exists beyond the theatres four walls in real life circumstances.
Matt Haig’s personable performance about mental health cuts to the core of our fears about what our brain is truly capable of and how more youngsters feel trapped in an ever growing social and digital world. However, this raw presentation on stage is an incredible wake up call for all audience members to lean in and take notice of those we may consider introverts or subdued, as issues may bubble beneath the surface. Impactful and greatly written, be prepared to be emotionally tugged.
Review by Luke Redhead.
Reasons to Stay Alive was shown from Tuesday 5th until Saturday 9th November 2019 at the York Theatre Royal. The production will take place at the Leeds Playhouse from Tuesday 12th until Saturday 16th November 2019, to find out more, visit here…