The Light House

Alys Williams
Alys Williams in association with Park Theatre
Park 90, London

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Alys Williams Credit: Ant Robling
Alys Williams Credit: Ant Robling
Alys Williams Credit: Ant Robling

The Lighthouse illustrates with gentle humour the optimistic, theatrical, poetic imagination of its writer-performer Alys Williams under the wise direction of Andrea Heaton and movement directors Maya Carroll and Rod Dixon.

Its subject is the way we can respond to the suicide attempt of someone we love; hardly the obvious material for the uplifting performance we experience.

Every year, thousands of people attempt suicide. Three-quarters of those who officially succeed are male. Many of us wish we could have done something to help someone who made such an attempt.

Alys personalises the performance by saying her story is true and involving the audience in various ways, including voluntarily playing her partner Nathan, her mother her father and her sister. She also gets the entire audience singing and at one point dances in the arms of a woman from the audience.

Her story, and the practical things we might do, are conveyed through a central vivid nautical metaphor of someone falling overboard. She briefly goes through the advice. The person who sees this happen shouts, “man overboard”. She gets two audience members to repeat the shout in quick succession. The sequence is repeated several times during the show.

A whistle is blown three times, the bridge is contacted and a lifebuoy with a light / smoke float is chucked into the water. Nathan is the man overboard. He contacts her from Dublin to say an ambulance took him to hospital after he nearly jumped from a bridge.

She met Nathan seven years earlier, and we hear about a few things they did together, but the focus is on how she responds, from conversations to humour linked to that nautical metaphor.

We also hear how the institutions that should be responding don’t always function efficiently. Nathan is left sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours, and when he gets a notification in April that he finally has an appointment to see a mental health specialist, the invitation is for 23 August.

Occasionally, the emotional pull of events is emphasised by clips from songs such as “I’m Not Leaving” and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the Edge of Time”. At one point in clown face, she dances in the middle of an imagined road to the sound of “Singing in the Rain”.

The show's final section is hopeful and encouraging. As we travel, helped by a lighthouse to the safety of the shore, we are reminded that every lighthouse is unique, every journey can be different, and all of us can be part of that difference.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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