SO HERE WE ARE is a play about young lives cut short and a touching portrait of childhood friendships under strain in adult life. Director Steven Atkinson writes about the upcoming production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.
Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men aged under 35 in the UK. Some of the deaths can be attributed in part to recognisable factors – mental health issues or behavioural symptoms. But many victims have no discernible problems and the causes of their deaths remain mysteries to their loved ones. Written by Luke Norris, SO HERE WE ARE won a Judges’ Award at the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and paints an affecting portrait of male relationships and childhood friendship in Essex’s Southend.
Our play is about a group of men, a five-a-side football team, in their mid-20s who have been friends most of their lives. They’re working class, raised and living in Southend, and while one went to university, the others went from school and college straight into work in the local area. Their jobs are varied and they make an OK-paid living. They have healthy relationships and commitments. Life is brightened by sport. And the occasional holiday. For most of them, like many people, it’s a good life. But for one character there’s a re-occurring questioning of whether or not he fits in, and this uncertainty is causing him great pain.
Stories about people changing their lives are the backbone of drama. Often we assume that change is positive. What interested me about SO HERE WE ARE is that change isn’t positive for our restless character. It occurs to me that it’s a symptom of our times that it’s perceived that all life choices are viable. Through social media we’re encouraged to broadcast our lives like never before and provide a window for others to see in.
Our play doesn’t directly discuss the issues surrounding suicide in young men. It does however capture how difficult many men still find it to talk openly about their feelings, even in this age of social media and a seemingly classless society where pretty much anything is possible.
There’s no simple answer as to why suicide is so prominent in young men, and neither is there a simple solution. My feeling is that the best that can happen, in families, schools, the media and so forth, is an ongoing conversation explaining that it’s not unusual to feel unhappy and perhaps suicidal. And an awareness that GPs are here to help, along with a range of Googleable charities. The more familiar people are with the notion of male depression, hopefully the more enabled suffers will feel to seek help.
SO HERE WE ARE adds to the existing conversation about the emotional issues facing young men. For the time being at least, this issue isn’t going away.
By Steven Atkinson, Director of SO HERE WE ARE
The show is at the HighTide Festival until September 20, 2015