Touring – reviewed at the Salisbury Playhouse
Dealing with subjects that are based on depression and suicide is always a possible trigger for some audience members. Dealing with darker sides of personal and often closed private lives of the sufferers of depression and how their families feel are not easy topics to sit through. Director Lizzie Minnion has created a sensitive and very moving adaptation of the true story of A Stranger on a Bridge.
The story begins part way through Johnny’s journey. It is Sunday 13 January 2014 ,the night before he launches an appeal to find “Mike”. The man who stopped him jumping off Waterloo Bridge when he wanted to die.
He first appears on ITV breakfast show Sunrise talking to Lorraine Kelly about his appeal to find the man he believes to be called Mike and how he intends campaigning to achieve this. Starting with handing out flyers on Waterloo Bridge on the anniversary of the day he was saved.
Johnny is suffering from schizoaffective disorder and the voice in his head takes the form of Panda. This part is played brilliantly and captures the loud and demanding tone these voices can take on. Leading the sufferer to act out of character and do strange and sometimes dangerous things. On one occasion Johnny is walking through traffic with no awareness of the danger around him on a busy dual carriageway with frustrated drivers around him.
Emails, phone calls, and letters flood in after Johnny has opened up about his depression and suicide attempts. As in all situations, there are messages of support and anger at what he has spoken out about. Although the anger is directed at him the people whose loved ones have died from suicide are using this to release their hurt and anger as many are frustrated by not knowing why their loved have done it.
However, no matter which side of the situation you stand the important message from plays like this is that people are discussing depression, suicide and things surrounding mental health. If audience members are uncomfortable then it is hardly surprising as these are difficult topics which need to be understood and become more aware of.
The play explores Johnny’s different experiences when he seeks help from the medical profession. One Dr tells him to eat more fruit and veg and get more early nights. That just saved the NHS a lot of money with such a straight forward solution! Although this can be a helpful factor deep-rooted depression requires far more understanding and a treatment package that suits each patient.
The play is somewhat disjointed and the actors interact in and out of character. However, this doesn’t detract from the play or following the storyline. It just enhances how fractured depression is and that it can change the line of thought in a heartbeat. One minute euphoria and happy to the next where they believe they are worthless and no good.
As to whether Johnny finds Mike or not I would urge you to go and find out for yourself. It’s a strong and emotionally draining play but well worth seeing.
Bringing the play to its conclusion the cast of five on stage almost trebled as the actors all descended adding their voices about their experiences and treatment from the outside world about their mental health problems too. Certainly a challenging performance for all the actors and creative team involved.
For anybody affected by anything in this review please seek professional medical help. You do not have to suffer alone, help is available.
15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ
T: 020 8519 2122, F: 020 8522 1725
Samaritans tel: 116 123
A Postcard Productions Production
Thursday 2 – Saturday 4 May at 7.45pm
Saturday at 2.45pm
The Salberg Theatre
14th-18th May 2019
Tobacco Factory Theatre