GETTING into the head of someone suffering from depression is incredibly hard.
But in this new stage version of Matt Haig’s groundbreaking book Simon Daw’s ingenious set allows us to do so physically and metaphorically.
Written by April De Angelis and directed by Jonathan Watkins, it is a moving, life-affirming voyage of discovery charting Matt’s journey out of his mental health crisis.
While never straying from the seriousness of the issues affecting so many people, there’s plenty of humour in a celebration of life in all its darkest corners. Music and dance also feature strongly, adding energy and wit to the bleakest moments.
Questions such as whether depression comes from inside yourself or your experiences are examined. It also takes a swipe at the way drugs are routinely dished out as a solution.
Lists flagged up and shouted out such as “Things you think during your first panic attack” later followed by “Things you think during your 1000th panic attack”, plus the especially true “Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations” are funny and insightful.
And there’s a clever twist to Matt’s story as he meets himself coming back before the end.
Mike Noble is compelling and wonderfully expressive as young Matt, stricken by a black hole of anxiety at the age of 24.
Phil Cheadle, as the all-knowing older Matt, is totally convincing as he guides his younger self through time and space to show him how the world and all our lives are in a constant state of change.
A superb ensemble cast of Janet Etuk — solid as a rock in Matt’s existence as his partner Andrea — Chris Donnelly, Dilek Rose and Connie Walker navigate the story in multiple roles.
Haig says that you should stay alive for the different versions of yourself as you get older. Of course this is just one man’s story, living with depression on a poor council estate would be completely different as the NHS and communities are starved of mental health resources.
But there’s no doubting that this is uplifting, imaginative piece of theatre which helps us all understand the reasons to keep living life to the full.
Reasons To Stay Alive is at Sheffield Crucible Studio until Saturday, September 28