Edinburgh Fringe 2022
This show provides a personal reflection on a journey through one man’s decline in mental health and how he came back from the brink. An important story told with warmth and honesty, supported by some good music and songs.
How are you feeling? It is good to know that performer and musician Matt McGuinness is feeling fine now, although not so long ago he wasn’t. In 2018 he wasn’t in a great place with his mental health, this musician, who had never written or performed any theatre before decided to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. Why submit yourself to the possibility of six NHS provided counselling sessions when you can go one better and self-medicate with seven performances at the biggest and busiest festival of its kind, what could possibly go wrong? Traditional routes to mental health support are not always easy to access and are not for everyone. This on-stage sharing of personal experiences through spoken-word and music, if done carefully and appropriately, can help performer and audience alike. If, in addition to providing entertainment, work like this can help raise understanding and get us talking about this important topic then a performance like this has the potential to do good work.
Some memories that crop up in the show are scattered in physical form around the stage and there is a pull-up back drop featuring a faint image of one of the male statues from Gormley’s haunting “Another Place” on Crosby Beach. Matt grew up in Crosby and knows these statues well. He tells of how he once watched them for a full day, from early morning to late at night he watched them slowly disappear under the waves, completely gone from the world, before reappearing much later. This ever-changing work of art provides a useful metaphor, as the force of nature, waves and the tide help to remind us that anyone can go from standing tall and feeling like a giant to being lost at sea.
This show is about mental health from a man’s point of view, and there is often a tendency for men to brush away emotions and feelings in exchange for a laugh and a joke. Matt uses humour and some clever lines to provide balance and occasional light relief as he gives us a view into his own warm personality and this natural coping mechanism used by many.
The central song “We are what we overcome” is a soulful upbeat and optimistic number that acts as a welcome indicator to a rise from rock bottom and towards better times. This reminded me a little of the guitar and vocal sounds of Edwyn Collins and is a song I would choose to hear again. The music and songs provide some welcome variety to the show. Some are more emotional and poetic, other songs are more rocky, upbeat and foot-tapping.
The music may be the strongest part of this gentle show about a serious, and sometimes deadly subject. Not too surprising from an experienced musician who is a little newer to sharing thoughts and feelings via theatre and spoken word. The performance could still be developed and fine-tuned, perhaps a clearer description of what happened back at the Fringe in 2018 might help. Any advice and insight into how to survive Edinburgh or what to do when it all comes crashing in might be a welcome addition for a festival audience. The show has a good heart with very good intentions it provides an individual’s reflection on their personal and all too common struggle with the challenges of mental health. It helps to inform and shed light on this important topic as it provides a brief insight into one person’s journey towards recovery. Matt was lucky, he had a friend who picked up the phone when he most needed it, and sometimes, when you are feeling submerged and you are waiting for the tide to turn, all you need is to be heard.
The show is part funded by The Arts Council England and Samaritans. According to show details volunteers from Edinburgh Samaritans will be supporting remaining performances on the 20, 21, 23 & 27 of August.