Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. Years later, he chose to write a book about that dark experience and what he learnt through depression and suicidal feelings. That book was Reasons to stay Alive.
I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, I had read the book and found it raw, honest and strangely comforting. As someone who has faced mental health challenges, it certainly hit a nerve and felt very real. But how would it work as a stage play?
Imagined for the stage by Jonathan Watkins, it uses music and movement to portray the realities of living with depression both as the person at the centre of the story and also as the family members.
It starts with Young Matt at a desperate point in his life when he is considering ending his life. He is led through the darkness by the older version of himself as well as his partner, parents and less than helpful boss.
There were parts that were so real, so honest, that they caused rueful laughs from the audience. You know, that knowing laugh that is saying “Oh fuck, yeah me too!” Other parts were so heartbreaking that they hurt my chest.
What was incredibly clever was that though the play centres on Matt (both old and young), the other characters are far from bit parts. I felt the anguished confusion of his mum, the devotion of his partner and the awkwardness of his dad. I have had times of depression where the darkness swallowed me whole, but watching this play gave me an outsider’s perspective of depression.
For a story about depression, panic attacks and suicidal feelings, it is surprisingly not a big downer. Yes, it was thought provoking, it made me cry and it brought up a lot of feelings that it has taken me a few days to process. But the overlying theme is hope.
‘Life is waiting for you. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it’
I was invited to a press showing of Reasons to stay alive but I wasn’t paid for this review.