Cheryl Martin describes herself as a singer, poet, director, writer and performer, from which emerges Alaska, her journey of battling the ‘imps’ of depression, rage and perfectionism, in an inspiringly honest account.
Performed in a former women’s locker room, a circle of chairs creates a conversation. Lit only in one corner, by a soft butter light, the intimacy of the set beautifully enhances what you are about to experience.
Dressed in white, Cheryl’s presence expands to fill the room, as she seems to spontaneously recall stories from her childhood, university and later life, in her journey with severe depression. But she shares more than just these, as she complements them with her excellent music taste and voice, allowing the audience time to digest what may be difficult to hear.
Whilst focused on her personal experience, Cheryl also sheds light on the flaws in society’s relationship with those struggling with mental illness. With a natural humour and infectious charisma, she expresses her frustrations with bad doctors, good doctors and the Catholic Church. Alaska is decorated with exquisitely poetic description, to be expected from an English Literature student at Cambridge University, an accolade Cheryl tosses in, along with a myriad of others as she continues to surprise.
The importance of Alaska is not to be understated. Conversations surrounding suicide, self harm and asylums are excluded from the mainstream, normally accompanied with discomfort, but instead, Cheryl describes her experiences with a raw truthfulness that draws one closer.
Do not expect a neat recall of the events, the trajectory of her experiences lacks definitive chronology, meaning certain aspects are unclear, despite its eloquence. However, this should be accounted for by your inevitable enrapture.
She dances with passion, alone amongst the chairs. Perhaps you may envy her enthusiastic embrace of vulnerability (something that eludes the best of us), but you will certainly be struck by Cheryl’s overwhelming strength of character, and a life that seems to be, to her credit, unimpeded by the burden of depression.