Amy Guyler, writer of DIGGING DEEP, has shared her thoughts on mental health, suicide, and the inspiration for her play – which features as part of our Amplify Festival 2019.
Mental health is a really difficult topic to write about. It’s a difficult topic to talk about, too – despite it being something that affects us all. And suicide is even harder. Maybe we’ve lost a family member, a friend, or heard through the grapevine about somebody we knew at school. Maybe we’ve struggled with mental illness ourselves, or helped somebody close to us through the other side.
When I realised that suicide and mental health would be the subjects of DIGGING DEEP – my first play – it took me a long time to decide how to do it. Did I even want to? Would I be writing something horrible and emotional about death and dying? Would anybody want to see that? And how could it possibly help anyone?
According to studies by CALM and the Samaritans, suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK – with men from deprived areas up to ten times more likely to commit suicide. As somebody from a ‘working class’ background, and with the first London performances of the play due to feature working class actors, I knew class would need to be a huge part of the play.
I was back in Nottingham for the weekend, in my mum’s house in Arnold, when I saw a news report on ITV Central. It was about bodies being kept in mortuaries for up to a year, whilst families struggle to pay for funerals – and to me, that seemed a very ‘working class’ issue. How bad are things when you can’t even afford to die? The idea came then; about a suicidal person, forced to raise money for their own funeral.
It was important that the characters in the play feel like people we really know. The boys in our English class, our cousins, our boyfriend’s mates, the lad we sit next to at work. ‘Mossy’ – our lead character – announces that he wants to kill himself. But he also doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s made his decision, and that’s that. His mates are worried, but ultimately get swept along for the ride, and their concerns are hidden behind jokes and banter.
In some ways, the play is total farce. It’s daft, and (hopefully) funny – skydiving and onion peeling and the Guinness Factory. But in other ways, it cuts dangerously close to home; at some point, haven’t we all gone along with something, pretending it’ll all be alright in the end?
*DIGGING DEEP *isn’t just about mental health. It’s about lack of opportunity; seeing a world of possibilities on social media, and never being able to reach them. It’s about anybody who ever struggled through their twenties, wondering ‘what’s the point?’ and ‘where am I going?’
And at the very end, when the laughs stop… it’s about friendship; and the things you do to bring a mate back from the brink.
DIGGING DEEP will be performed in our Neville Studio on Thursday 17 October.