Suicide is often an uncomfortable subject to be confronted with, even for adults. When a six-year-old is told their mum is in hospital because she hurt herself, their wonderfully innocent reaction is to make a list of every brilliant thing, so she won’t want to do it again. As time progresses, the list transcends its original use: less a deterrent for its originally intended, more a coping-mechanism for its creator.
For a play about suicide and depression, it is infectiously hilarious, uplifting and warm. It achieves this by not really discussing the mental state of the mother, instead focussing on how the narrator manages his emotions. As the main tool in this management is a naïve list filled with childish flights of fancy “people falling over”, it gives the whole story a wonderfully juvenile filter with which to process the darker themes, strengthened by performer Jonny Donahoe’s kindly and affable manner.
In some ways, this is more of a talk than a play as the lights are never dimmed and Donahoe (who has a background in stand-up comedy) feels as though he is speaking to friends rather than delivering lines, giving the performance a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. This informality is further strengthened by frequent involvement of the audience, either to play other characters (father, girlfriend, teacher) or simply to vocalise items on the list. This interaction transforms what is ostensibly a solo action into a group effort, as if we are all collaborators in its creation. The result is a performance that might contemplate on death but is bursting with joyous, accepting, non-judgemental life.