Fifty Feet and Falling
Guy’s Hospital, London
Star rating: 5/5
Holding this production on the 29th floor of London’s Guy’s Hospital heightened the drama in this play about a man who jumps to his death, writes Mark Drinkwater. The solo performance by Steve Huison – Lomper in The Full Monty – traces the final thoughts of a man whose life flashes before him as he commits suicide.
Dark though the material is, Fifty Feet delivered a thought-provoking and entertaining piece of drama with elements of comedy and irony. Providing insight into the cyclical nature of depressive thoughts, the play is made all the more poignant when you find it is based on the diaries of a friend of the theatre company who struggled with depression before taking his own life.
Sheffield-based Shoestring Theatre Company was brought to the capital for five performances at Guy’s Hospital by the charity Mental Fight Club, which aims to help the local NHS trust develop its suicide prevention strategy and services in south London by bringing together audiences of service users, carers and mental health professionals.
Post performance, a lively discussion session between audience members examined the issues raised and elicited moving accounts from service users.
For Mental Fight Club, public discussions about depression and suicide in this way are crucial to de-stigmatising issues. One audience member said: “I found the play absolutely powerful. As a person who suffers from chronic depression myself, it felt very real and accurate.”
This sentiment was echoed by the actor Huison: “Each time we’ve performed there are people in the audience saying, ‘This is my life. This is what I am going through’.”
As a borough, Southwark has one of the highest rates of suicides in London and this event provided an innovative and engaging method of dealing with this difficult subject. An inspiring example of how the arts can be used to develop care services.
More information about Mental Fight Club
Further details of Shoestring Theatre. Organisations in Wales can organise a free performance of Fifty Feet and Falling if they provide a venue. As part of the Arts Council of Wales’s “Nights Out” scheme, ACW will pay the company fees when a venue is provided free.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London