Jade City, The Bunker

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by Laura Kressly

When Sas and Monty were kids, the world was full of possibility and adventure. Now that they’re grown, poverty, loneliness and their pasts have trapped them in Belfast, barely able to leave their flats. Infantilised by unemployment, they stay in and play pretend like they did as children. Whether its as bin men, Cuban revolutionaries or global travellers, The Game lets them ignore the harsh reality of the social and economic systems keeping them down. In Alice Malseed’s play, the past, present and imagined flow into each other like the lads’ days do, but Sas thinks its time they grow up.

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The Son, Duke of York’s Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Nicholas is in pain. It is constant, all-consuming and prevents him from doing much of anything, and his parents don’t know how to help him. First he lives with his mum; then his dad and his wife and their newborn son, but the hurt is persistent, overwhelming and recognisable to those who have struggled with depression or poor mental health. This intelligent, young man’s agony is the pervasive focus of this well-made, family drama that, though formulaic and unsympathetic, captures the difficulties that ensue when mental illness has moved in.

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Dido, Unicorn Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

If theatre has a reputation for being inaccessible and snobbishly high cultured, opera is doubly regarded as such. Fortunately, the Unicorn and ENO teamed up to make this young people’s version of Dido and Aeneas, pared down to 60 minutes with an easy-to-understand story for secondary school students. However, the story is pitched as placing Dido’s teenaged daughter at the centre, but this version is not reconfigured enough to make her more than a passive observer of her mother’s collapse.

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Digging Deep, Vault Festival

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by Laura Kressly

CW: suicide and self-harm

Mossy is only 22 but he’s tired of life. He can’t shake the feeling that there’s nothing more than this, so the best option is to call it a day and kill himself. His only concern is that his mum won’t be able to afford his funeral, so he convinces his reluctant mates to launch a fundraising campaign before he goes. Touching on toxic masculinity, male friendship, euthanasia and voyeuristic media consumption, this new script has some clumsy writing but the themes that propel the action forward to a surprising end smartly support the story of friendship.

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Brutal Cessation and Dust, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Actor and writer Milly Thomas is an unstoppable force refusing to shy away from tough material. A First World Problem, her most recent play, lays bare the cruel adolescent world of a top girls’ private school. Her two shows at the fringe are stylistically different from each other, but both are similarly confrontational. Brutal Cessation forces the audience to examine the gender stereotypes within an abusive, cishet relationship and Dust, the significantly stronger of the two works, is a monologue on mental health and suicide.

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Anatomy of a Suicide, Royal Court

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by guest critic Simona Negretto

When a trauma shatters the crystalline equilibrium and accepted dynamics of a family, is the tendency for the generations that follow to repeat it inescapably or can a single individual react against that?

Alice Birch’s new work, Anatomy of a Suicide, courageously investigates how the suicide of a mother affects the lives of a daughter and a granddaughter, haunts their own motherhood (or causing the lack of it) and their relationships. Simultaneously staging the three intertwined stories of Carol, Anna and Bonnie during three different eras – the 70s, the 90s and the near future – the play ambitiously creates a multidimensional and multi-level world engaging the audience and the actors in an extraordinary and overwhelming tour de force.

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Glockenspiel, Tristan Bates Theatre

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In the programme notes for Steven Dykes’ Glockenspiel, we are told that 40% of current personnel have been deployed more than once, and 27% of those veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from anxiety disorders and/depression. A fifth of ex-service people are unemployed, and a fifth report cases of domestic violence. Male ex-service members are twice as likely to commit suicide than their non-serving peers. So it’s no secret that the US doesn’t look after its veterans very well. The play tries to look at the effects of service on those now finding their way in the civilian world, but Old Sole Theatre Company’s execution doesn’t deliver the power needed for this slowly-developing script.

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