Bunker Theatre, London – until 28 October 2017
This latest play by Kieran Knowles is brought sharply to life in Abigail Graham’s brutally honest production.
It is a heartbreaking fact of life that every 31 hours someone takes their own life by jumping in front of a train – and they are more likely to be male.
Men’s mental health is becoming increasingly important and making more headlines in recent years with a number of campaigns going on to make people more aware of how male mental health is something that needs to be discussed more. With 31 Hours this is brought sharply into focus.
In this immensely important play, four male workers are having to clear up the aftermath of a railway suicide as well as having to deal with their own problems and lives, increasingly getting more wound up and frustrated with everything that they are keeping inside and the feelings they can’t express.
This is perfectly captured in the moment in which Neil explodes saying: “Man. Up. Man-up. Literally, What do you mean? Is this how I walk as a man, or stand? Or do I do it like this? Please, Fucking tell me what that instruction means?” It asks us to question what being a man really means – which these days means having to be strong all of the time and unable to talk about their feelings because it seems inappropriate or ‘soft’. It is a powerful and poignant moment.
As well as centring on the four workers, 31 Hours is also split into several case stories of different incidents and reasons behind people taking their own lives – from all walks of life, each person with their own problems and sense of despair that pushed them to taking their own lives. It has been a carefully thought out and researched play that does bring all emotions to the surface.
Abigail Graham’s production is sharp and focused with moments of humour, which reveals the type of relationship that men feel comfortable with – without talking about how they truly feel. It is powerful to watch and experience.
But it also highlights just how much perhaps people don’t understand about the impact of suicide of people on train lines. For example, when a suicide happens do we think of the impact it has on those who have to deal with the aftermath? Or the train drivers trauma? This is highlighted later on in the play with dialogue such as “Some Prick has jumped in front of my train and now I am late for interview,Absolute farce. #selfish” – it makes you extremely aware of your own attitude without realising the full impact.
The production features four very different but equally strong performances from the cast. Salvatore D’Aquilla’s performance as Neil is particularly moving to watch as it is painfully clear just how much he is struggling – it is never overly dramatic but powerful to watch unfold. Meanwhile, Abdul Salis, James Wallwork and Jack Sunderland’s characters come across as “typical” men – confident and in control, their vulnerability and uncertainty comes through gradually to show the hidden depths of their characters.
All in all, this is an extremely important play and production about an extremely important issue. Does it get you talking about mental health? Absolutely. Does it get you thinking about your own attitude towards men’s mental health? Definitely. Does it show how far we still have to go in changing attitudes? Yes – and it is a powerful reminder of how important theatre is in changing attitudes.
31 Hours continues to play at the Bunker Theatre until the 28th October. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/31-hours.