Reasons to Stay Alive – York Theatre

Matt Haig’s story, told in the book Reasons to Stay Alive is one that has had, without doubt, a huge impact on readers globally. With mental health something that is rarely spoken about in the right contexts, Matt reveals both the darkness and the light of depression that affects most of us every single day. The book, the story, is now touring across the UK as the brilliant English Touring Theatre has brought to life Matt’s life.

From the outside looking it, it would seem that dramatising a story of such magnitude and power would be difficult, especially with it being factual and centring around one man’s troubles. That just isn’t the case though and the storytelling of an early 20’s Matt Haig, is one that is funny and moving in equal measures. The work done by Jonathan Watkins to choreograph the show, and the exceptional performance of Mike Noble playing young Matt mean the depression being suffered right in front of your eyes, is both entertaining but torturous to watch, knowing this really happened.

It really is a magnificent version of the book and the way in which the producers depict some of the key messages and ideas from the book are inventive, creative but above all pertinent and relevant. Nothing feels staged, even though that is exactly what the play is intended to be. The two most compelling scenes play out, one as Haig’s list of famous depression sufferers becomes a chant as the cast run on the spot — ironic and empathetic as running was, and still is one of the things that helps Haig with his recovery.

The second, novels and books are stuck onto the backdrop of the stage. Key pieces of literature that are significant for differing reasons – it is this placement and reflection of individual lines from works of art, that make you appreciate life in new ways.

Away from Young Matt, Janet Etuk who plays Andrea, Haig’s girlfriend, is exceptional. Whilst suffering from depression is one of the worst things someone can be subjected to, being the person who has to care for someone with it, can be just as difficult and that’s clear through Etuk’s performance of Andrea. Every line, every dialogue is played out in a way that will resonate with many and almost all people who have to help others with depression every single day.

Amongst all the incredible performances though it’s Older Matt who stands out for me. Guiding someone through depression must be one of the most difficult experiences one can go through, and the genius, genuine genius in the way in which Reasons on stage is choreographed, makes it so engaging to watch. Present day Matt guides younger Matt through the hardest times of his early 20s, telling him how he will get through it all and become successful – he’s Matt’s guardian angel and it’s just superb.

I loved Reasons on stage, the guys at the English Touring Theatre have done the book justice and I urge you to go and watch!