Reasons to Stay Alive, a Sheffield Theatres and English Touring Theatre co-production, is based on the internationally best-selling book by Matt Haig and has been “imagined for the stage” and directed by Jonathan Watkins, with text by award-winning playwright April De Angelis.
We are introduced to two characters, the young and slightly older Matt who, during the course of the play, meet and have conversations with each other. There is always a sizeable gap between the printed page and visible drama. Prose can only be experienced by one reader at a time, drama, by contrast is aimed at many spectators assembled in a single space.
Where an unconvinced reader can skip pages, a bored audience can walk out. You will not, emphatically not, be walking out of Reasons to Stay Alive, which is an exploration of a descent into the hell that is depression, miserably coupled here with anxiety and panic attacks.
Review: Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present - Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
The awkward art of creating a good memory play demands both condensation and self-discipline, and both shine through here in what is an astonishing collaborative effort. This is a short but incisive evening in which a young man figures both as an observer and a participant, not just recording, but contributing.
And the audience learns so many things along the way. Some are self-evident – it is hardly very helpful to someone in the depths of depression to be told to “buck your ideas up” or to “snap out of it”. Medication will help some, and not others. In combating it, the sufferers will need infinite patience, support, and a resolve of steel. A combination which is, tragically, infrequently found.
Review: Malory Towers - York Theatre Royal
Painfully honest, Reasons to Stay Alive explores its subject, and Matt Haig’s internal struggles with grim dedication. Mike Noble is the younger man, Phil Cheadle the older, and, at uncomfortably close quarters in the Studio Theatre, we are intimately involved with the action.
There has not been a more credible, more harrowing, account of internal anguish for quite some time. The wet gleam of despair in the eyes and on the face of Noble will haunt you for some considerable time. This is truly landmark theatre. But, here is the little miracle – you emerge hopeful, and enlightened.
5 STARS - To September 28, then touring.