Suicide is the most common cause of death in men under fifty. Seventy per cent of doctor’s queues are filled with patients with mental health issues. One in four people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. Yet the topic of mental health, in particular male depression, remains taboo. What Fake it ‘Til You Make It: Special Latitude Edition does brilliantly is translates these statistics into a human story: Tim Grayburn’s.
Grayburn and Bryony Kimmings met on a night out in East London. One night stand, falling in love, moving in – a typical British romance. Or as Kimmings states: “This is a love story. I know. Gross.” Their personal mythology shifts when Kimmings unintentionally discovers Grayburn’s antidepressants six months into their relationship, and it is this transition that is told in a painfully open piece.
Grayburn was diagnosed with depression when he was 22 and had hidden it from his colleagues, friends and all but his closest family. Terrified of being stigmatized by his mental health disease, he feared that responses to talking about his depression would include: ‘Why don’t you man up?’ or ‘Grow a pair’. Fake it ‘Til You Make It tackles this fear being exposed in one of the most obvious ways possible: Grayburn starts the play in his underwear.
The autobiographical tale is extremely poignant thanks to its use of audio recordings and the personal relationship between Kimmings and Grayburn. Portraying both those that have depression and also those close to them, the piece contains heart wrenching raw material. Hearing Kimmings weep as she tells Grayburn how she can no longer look at the bedroom window after hearing his suicide plans, followed by the sounds of kissing, cements the show’s emotional authenticity.
It is the combination of reality and theatre that gives Fake it ‘Til You Make It its power. Blending Kimmings’ career as a performance artist with Grayburn’s complete lack of acting experience (he was formerly an advertising executive) ensures that this serious topic is not depicted as a tragedy. Grayburn’s awkwardness on stage endears the audience to him, a trait he acknowledges with his almost apologetic introduction of a dance to describe the symptoms of depression. I hope that this tending pairing of personalities endures the longer the show plays, and does not disappear as the performance becomes more routine and professional.
The staging of the production, even though described as a “lo-fi Latitude version” by Kimmings, is fantastic. The use of intricate masks so that Grayburn does not have to look the audience in the eye not only manifests the isolating nature of depression, but also makes the revealing of him far more brutal.
This autobiographical tale of two Londoners battling with depression becomes a truly affecting piece through its brutal honesty, desire to smash taboos and potent message. With both tears and laughs, Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Special Latitude Edition is an important work to see.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It is playing Traverse Theatre/Fringe Festival 6 – 30 August. For more information and tickets, see the Fake It ‘Til You Make It website. Photo credit: Fake It ‘Til You Make It production photos.