Alright?

Patrick Withey gives a delightfully engaging and endearing performance as the troubled 15-year-old in Black Hound Productions’ Alright!, which has absolutely nothing to do with Catherine Tate’s Lauren.

Price gives a captivating performance throughout

Noah sits behind a table in his home staring at a single chocolate cupcake with a lone candle on it and proclaims, “Happy Birthday to me, 15”. Then screams, “The end of the world”. It comes as a surprise, but it sows the seeds of his story that goes on to explore his isolation, frustration and despair; his sense of simply not being alright and his inability to cope with life.

The full extent of his condition emerges incrementally. At first, he sets the scene and anecdotally builds the fuller picture of his situation. It’s a solo performance but he is not alone. He has conversations through recorded dialogue that brings to life his school counsellor, dad, gran and girlfriend. These exchanges take place in different parts of the stage in a cleverly-designed set.

The piece is descriptive rather than analytical. It also doesn’t come to any conclusions. Instead it presents a statement of how some people are and what they have to live with. Don’t expect any profound answers to penetrating questions. This is about living with yourself and others, the stress of exams, the bullying that goes on school and how even mates on the cricket team can mock you. Price gives a captivating performance throughout and his self-deprecating manner and precise delivery combined with careful timing of punch-lines provide an uplifting element of humour. As Noah’s dad says, “You’ve gotta laugh!” and that is a good maxim to have in life and works for those of us listening to his story. The tragedy, and the point at which the mental health issues emerge, is when Noah points out that in his situation things just aren’t amusing and that he can’t laugh.

A new chapter opens for him at college but life soon becomes as much of challenge there as was at school and will be for perhaps the rest of his life. In contrast to his quiet, reserved and fairly nerdy self he goes out and gets drunk at a student party and embarrasses himself, particularly in failed conversations with girls; an event as disastrous as his school prom. But it’s back home that things come to a head in a tense encounter with his dad, and two men, distant from each other, who cannot understand themselves let alone the other, try to express what they feel and explain their behaviour.

At the end we are given a few tips and left with the hope that one day Noah, like so many, will find someone who can really help him to understand himself and that at the very least his life will go, no doubt as struggle, but that at least he will still be alive.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

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The Blurb

'Happy Birthday to me. 15. The end of the world!' Like a lot of 15-year-olds, Noah finds life difficult. Very difficult. And he doesn't know how to cope. This is a story about coping... about getting by. As Noah's dad says: 'You've gotta laugh!' But what if it's not funny… How do you cope when you're clearly not Alright? The original production, written by the award-winning Patrick Withey, is a brutally honest and quick-witted insight into living with mental health.

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