Review: Reasons To Stay Alive at Leeds Playhouse

‘Depression never lies!’

As we sit in the darkness awaiting the show to begin, three large structures lurk on stage. The lights switch on and a man begins to speak. He is telling his journey through depression and how it began. We get to know him as older Matt (Phil Cheadle), he is then joined by younger Matt (Mike Noble) who takes up the story as Older Matt watches and between the two the journey unfolds.

Mental health can be quite a sticky subject and more and more people are writing and talking about it these days and for it to be the subject of a play is just thought-provoking. Credit has to be given to the cast, it is only small and made up of 6 people interacting and interchanging both with characters and the equipment. It’s through them as they express brilliant characterisation, emotion, and drama we hear how Matt struggled with depression. It added impact along with the contemporary dancing to express these moments. What I loved was how they used the small stage and the use of structure not only to cocoon Matt at his darkest times but also to open up and bring joy, this was also helped by the brilliant use of lighting.

The play, an adaptation of Matt Haig’s frank and funny bestseller, is about one person’s journey, but it provides a powerful way to talk about depression. It does leave food for thought on how we see depression as an illness. With lots of small messages popping up through the clever use of props, some quite thought-provoking and yet simple and as they say everyone is affected differently by depression and its not just them it effects but those around them to.

Matt Haig has written several books and if you would like to find out more you can follow him on Twitter at @matthaig1

Reasons To Stay Alive runs at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 16 November 2019. Tickets cost £14-32 from (0113) 213 7700 or


This post was written by Helen Carr

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