Reasons to Stay Alive at Sheffield's Crucible is a moving , harrowing celebration of the human spirit
Depression is an immensely internal experience yet Sheffield Theatres' and English Touring Theatre’s world premiere of Matt Haig’s bestselling book manages to capture and externalise the inside of a young man’s head and make it a rewarding theatrical experience.
Imagined for the stage by director Jonathan Watkins and scripted brilliantly by playwright April de Angelis, the play employs the effective device of having an older actor playing an older more experienced Matt advising his younger self on how to get through the torment of being in his own head during particularly severe bouts of depression and extreme panic attacks – by effectively reminding him of the many reasons to stay alive.
Matt’s lucky in one respect – his main reason for staying alive is his patient, understanding girlfriend (in real life now wife and mother of his children) whose support is essential for helping him through the worst times.
Mike Noble as the younger Matt reveals both the acute pain and self-absorption of the depressive, while Janet Ekut as Andrea warmly portrays the endless patience and love required of a partner.
Phil Cheadle as older Matt also gets to exercise his acting chops in later scenes when his depression and self-doubt returns, despite being a successful published author.
The real Matt Haig found his salvation and his way through the black dog through words and writing, and the play version of his memoir is a moving, often funny and sometimes harrowing celebration of the capacity of the human spirit to endure and survive - without offering any magic bullets or silver linings.
Reasons to Stay Alive, Crucible Theatre, until September 28