Any piece of art that tackles a complicated subject like mental health is worthwhile. Musicals like Dear Evan Hansen have been paving the way for the kind of conversations that Jason Goodwin-Tully’s Suicide Pact is trying to provoke. But we can’t change hearts and minds through theatre without some level of entertainment.
Suicide Pact has great potential to be re-imagined as a play.
Suicide Pact is the story of two men who meet at the lowest point in their lives and form an unlikely friendship. Feeling depressed and detached from society, they bond over their decision to end it all, and spend time together united by this common, grisley goal. According to Stonewall, over 50% of LGBT people in Britain have experienced depression in the last year, so there is no doubt that this issue is of vital importance. But as a musical, it’s very disappointing.
The script seems to be trying to embrace dark humour, while also spreading an uplifting message and educating the public about the stigma of mental health, ensuring it falls short on all sides. There are some enjoyable interactions between the two men, and their friendship feels very genuine. Goodwin-Tully’s wildchild character brings an element of humour to the piece, and Ronan Radin evokes our sympathy with his portrayal of an earnest young man in a desperate situation. Both actors have a lot of potential.
The biggest failing of this musical is the music itself. Neither performer is a very strong singer, but the melodies don’t give them much opportunity to showcase their talents. The piano accompaniment is quite rudimentary and repetitive, while the tunes are monotonous. It doesn’t help that there is no background music in between. Writing an original show is a huge challenge, but Goodwin-Tully has clearly prioritised the narrative. It’s a bad sign when the dialogue has been sustained for so many unaccompanied minutes that the audience forget they’re even watching a musical.
The dramatic ending, with Radin reading aloud from a letter and Goodwin-Tully reacting lyrically, is unsatisfying. The music overpowers Radin’s words, confusing the audience and dividing us over which person we should be straining to hear. While we can admire the commitment it takes to tackle a complex topic that others might shy away from, it’s hard to identify the central message of the piece.
Suicide Pact has great potential to be re-imagined as a play, giving the performers more time to develop their characters rather than struggling to animate rather lifeless songs every ten minutes. The concept is unusual and intriguing, and these diverse stories are definitely worth exploring, but this first iteration of the show has a long way to go before it can have a real impact on society.