Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. This is a real pandemic and one that takes a life every two hours. This shocking reality is mainly because many men feel they won’t be supported if they show their true emotions and consequently are unwilling to speak out.
The piece starts with Andy (played by Patrick Price) sitting on a bridge directly above a motorway. The audio fills the space with cars roaring past and we immediately recognise that Andy is about to take his own life. Before he has a chance to go through with it, James (played by Joseph Gallogly), pops up out of nowhere with his relentless cheer and shit jokes. James is a highly likeable character; he’s upbeat, he questions unfair male social standards and berates his football friend Camo (played by Joseph Richard Thomas), for homophobic remarks against Andy.
Written by Dan Lovatt, this truly poignant and confrontational show has been two years in the making and it’s well worth the wait. Toxic explores themes of toxic masculinity, homophobia, alcoholism and taking your own life. While this may sound paradoxical, this show is brought to life in a soft and witty context. The piece is just a great big hug. Both the super relatable dialogue and hilarious dynamic makes this show an absolute treat to watch. James and Andy share many “fuck offs” and “get outs”, but underneath the mockery, it is clear that they care deeply for each other.
The piece follows the journey of Andy’s battle with depression and suicide after he was left by his husband of five years. We’ve all been there at some stage, wine in one hand, a trifle in the other, heartbroken – sobbing at the sad reality that our crap jobs are the only semblance of a life we have left. However, we wouldn’t know highs without lows. Andy makes it through with the help of James and his weed-obsessed nephew Patrick (played by Joe Facer). The piece ends with an unexpected, captivating twist, a powerful emblem to check up on your mates.
Its resourceful use of set, props and urgent message makes Toxic a compelling watch from start to end. The pamphlets handed out during the show’s interval are a moving and enriching sentiment. These pamphlets encourage men to attend ‘Andy’s Man Club’ for a brew and a chat and reiterate the important message that it’s okay to talk. This show consistently prompts its spectators to act and eradicate the unfair constraints society holds around men. We must have difficult conversations and hold perpetrators accountable. No more ‘man ups’ and no more hiding tears! This show is a powerful reminder that men can be anything they want to be. Men must be unapologetically men.
Toxic is playing at the Garrick Theatre in Altrincham until 9 September. For more information and tickets, see The Altrincham Garrick Website.