'Too surreal' – Matt Haig on the stage play about his suicidal younger self

The cast of Reasons To Stay Alive in rehearsalsSymbol copyright
Johan Persson

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The forged of Causes To Keep Alive in rehearsals

20 years in the past, Matt Haig walked to the brink of a cliff and wrestled with the query of whether or not to leap.

This week, he’s going to watch an actor enjoying him stroll to the brink of a (faux) cliff and combat with the query of whether or not to leap. Then he’s going to watch any other actor enjoying an older model of himself communicate his more youthful self out of it.

The possibility of seeing his lifestyles tale on degree, Haig says, is “thrilling, however it is also very bizarre”.

And it’s his lifestyles tale.

The play is an adaptation of his guide Causes To Keep Alive – section memoir, section self-help handbook – by which he eloquently evoked the crushing despair and suffocating anxiousness that overcame him in September 1999. It then recounts how, with the assistance of his oldsters and female friend Andrea, he slowly were given again to one thing like steadiness.

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Matt Haig: “We completely by no means know what kind of individual we will be able to be one day”

As Haig places it, the brand new play dramatises “essentially the most intense revel in of my lifestyles and one of the worst days of my lifestyles”. The creator has had little hands-on involvement in its advent at Sheffield’s Crucible theatre, alternatively.

“I have given them a moderately unfastened rein,” he says. “The one factor I stated as a caveat on the assembly used to be, ‘You’ll be able to do what you need with me and Andrea, however please cross delicate on my oldsters’. I am utterly OK with the entire warts and all stuff, however with my oldsters it is a bit extra awkward.

“I have made them promise to not cross [and watch] at the similar evening as me as a result of I believe I would spontaneously combust with awkwardness.”

On that cliff best in Ibiza in 1999, 24-year-old Matt did not have the good thing about his older self to inform him that the whole thing can be OK. He used to be afraid of dwelling, with out a prospect – as he noticed it – of the ache easing. However he used to be similarly afraid of demise, and leaving his family members in the back of.

If the older Matt actually were in a position to go into at that time, he can have informed his more youthful self that, after stepping again from the cliff edge, in addition to writing about his despair, he would cross on to jot down award-winning novels and youngsters’s books (one among which might be become a movie by means of Netflix, and any other which might be optioned by means of Benedict Cumberbatch).

Oh, and he’d marry Andrea. And feature a circle of relatives. And a canine.

What would the younger Matt have manufactured from the reality this play is telling his tale? “In truth, any of it might be simply nearly too surreal to realize,” the 44-year-old replies.

“Turning into a printed creator at that time would were past anything else I can have imagined or concept I used to be able to. And the truth that I would be writing about that have would were past anything else I might have understood.

“And likewise the truth that I used to be nonetheless right here. I used to be in any such determined state that I did not suppose I would make it to 25 years outdated.

“I believe there is a lesson in that for everybody, actually, in that we completely by no means know what kind of individual we will be able to be one day. Each unmarried individual adjustments.”

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Johan Persson

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The play opens at Sheffield Crucible on Friday ahead of a UK excursion

Causes To Keep Alive used to be supposed to be a side-project in between Haig’s fiction works, however the chord it struck used to be so sizeable that the guide ended up staying in the United Kingdom best 10 for 49 weeks and being printed in 29 nations.

“When I used to be sick, my large factor used to be that I felt very by myself and really misunderstood. And I did not even perceive myself,” Haig says.

“Again then, there have been numerous very heavy, very instructional, somewhat miserable books about psychological sickness. However there wasn’t anything else that obtainable. So I sought after to create one thing that individuals may relate to.”

Its candid and beautifully-written insights and guidelines completed that. Probably the most tough a part of writing one thing folks may relate to, the creator says, used to be fielding messages from others who had been going via identical issues, and abruptly found out any person who understood.

“I used to be getting contacted so much by means of individuals who had been in an excessively susceptible states, or sick, or even suicidal,” he says. “And numerous the time I felt it used to be one thing I had to reply to. And I am not a physician. I am not a Samaritan. I did not essentially know what I will have to or will have to no longer be pronouncing. In order that used to be tough in the beginning.”

He now has touch main points for toughen organisations on his web page, and infrequently tweets them. The play, just like the guide, will “open a bit window” onto despair and anxiousness, he hopes.

The script has been written by means of April De Angelis, and the speculation for the play got here from director Jonathan Watkins, whose background as a choreographer way he’s the usage of motion and track to assist specific the sentiments that discussion by myself may fight to put across.

“Within the guide, he says occasionally phrases were not sufficient,” Watkins says. “I exploit phrases once we wish to use phrases, and I wish to use motion when phrases are not sufficient.”

‘Such crucial guide’

More youthful Matt is performed by means of Mike Noble, whilst older Matt is performed by means of Phil Cheadle, who learn the guide ahead of taking his audition.

“I used to be deeply moved,” the actor says. “It struck me that it is such crucial guide. And it isn’t just a guide that may be of use to those who reside with psychological well being difficulties, it is also a guide that I believe that may resonate on a much wider scale, and in truth supply numerous hope to anyone who may well be experiencing difficulties. I additionally had numerous pals actually suffering, so it is somewhat non-public.”

Suicide is the only largest killer of men beneath the age of 45, and regardless of a better openness about topics like despair, helped partially by means of folks like Haig, remaining week it used to be published that the suicide price in the United Kingdom had risen for the primary time since 2013.

In the long run, Cheadle says he hopes that via telling one individual’s tale, the play can succeed in many extra.

“Matt’s guide presentations the warts and all of what it’s love to be in the course of despair or anxiousness,” he says. “There may be numerous lightness in it and humanity. However in the end, there is numerous hope.

“There may be numerous hope that there’s a gentle on the finish of the tunnel. The guide does that superbly neatly, and I’m hoping our manufacturing brings that out.”

If you want toughen, you’ll telephone The Samaritans on 116 123 or e-mail

Causes To Keep Alive runs at Sheffield Crucible from 13-28 September ahead of a UK excursion.

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