Sheffield Crucible Theatre world premiere of play based on Matt Haig's best-seller, Reasons to Stay Alive
Actor Mike Noble is playing a real-life character in a story about a young man learning to live in a dark and scary world.
Mike plays the young Matt Haig in the play, based on the writer’s frank and funny best-selling book on how he fought to overcome depression.
The stage adaptation of Reasons to Stay Alive will get its world premiere at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield on September 13 to 28.
Mike said: “He’s a very interesting and intelligent man with a lot to say on important subjects.
“I don’t know how much I am actually playing him, except being true to his story.
“He is brilliant as a spokesperson on mental health issues. He is consistently vocal, fighting the good fight for good causes.”
Mike said the issue affects most people: “I don’t know many people who don’t either know someone or have had some kind of crisis in their own life, big or small.
“I’m telling a part of my own story, my family’s story and loved ones and friends’ story. It feels incredibly true. You don’t have to do a lot of research.”
Matt appears in episodes from Matt’s life. His older self, played by Phil Cheadle, comments on what happens and interacts with his younger counterpart.
Phil was seen on stage at the Crucible last year, playing Oberon, king of the fairies in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The show, created by Barnsley-born director and choreographer Jonathan Watkins, uses lots of different ways of telling the story.
Mike said: “There is a lot of movement. It has been an intense process, incredibly inventive and creative.
“And fun, which I knew it would be. I’ve known Jonathan from before. We worked together on Road at the Royal Court Theatre, where he was movement director.
“I know how fun he makes a room. I know how good he is at his job.”
Mike said that everyone in the rehearsal room is part of a collaborative process, which has made working on the show very enjoyable.
The story looks at some of Matt Haig’s toughest times, said Mike. “We find him in the middle of a crisis, where he believes the only way forward is to kill himself, to not exist any more.
“We see him go on a journey where he finds reasons to live. In a lot of it he’s fearful and distressed and he’s trying to figure out himself and learn things and accept things and learn techniques and weapons to help him cope and learn to live with his depression and anxiety.”
Mike said the older Matt is “incredibly intelligent and vocal and encouraging and poetic and inspiring.
“You’re not just watching a person having a nervous breakdown: there's a lot of light in the production, a lot of colour, a lot of hope.”
Mike said it had been really useful to talk to some people from Sheffield who had shared their own experiences as mental health professionals and service users.
“It just brings it home and you can use bits of extra detail. But on the whole it’s all in the book and therefore all in the play.
“We’re telling Matt’s story and it’s been very eloquent in the telling.”
Mike, who is from Liverpool, first worked in Sheffield in Punk Rock at the Lyceum in 2010. He said: “It’s nice to be back and be in those buildings again. It was my first professional job.”
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