|Photo: Richard Davenport|
Expectations can be dangerous. When everyone tells you something is wonderful and five stars and will hit you in the gut, that's a lot to live up to. I feel like when someone says I'll definitely cry, that means I definitely won't.
So no, Fake It 'Til You Make It was not what I was expecting. But I absolutely loved it, and yes - it lived up to the hype.
I thought, because I knew the subject matter would resonate and because of what I'd heard, that it would hit me hard and I'd be a mess at the end, but I wasn't. I felt emotion, but a different kind. A sort of overwhelming pride, always an odd word when you don't know the person, but definitely pride - for how Tim had worked with Bryony to put together this show, and to stand at the end and talk to us about men and depression and stigma. I felt moved but more so in a joyous way - because we are most definitely making positive steps away from shame and into understanding.
If you haven't heard about the show: Bryony and Tim are a real life couple. They're in love, and are about to have a baby. And Tim suffers with depression and anxiety.
He kept it secret for the longest time, feeling too ashamed to even Google his symptoms, and it was only when Bryony discovered the Citalopram in his bag that he could begin to have an honest conversation about his feelings.
What I loved about this show, was the honesty involved, and the relationship we got to get a glimpse into. One-person autobiographical shows are common, but this dynamic is different - they're letting us into their intimate, personal and, crucially, shared painful experience, as well as the eccentricities and joy of their relationship.
And it was funny! I've said it before but I love the quote from Peter Ustinov - "comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Serious subject matters do not mean we shouldn't be laughing - if anything, the opposite. It helps.
Fake It flits between storytelling, surreal visual antics that almost parody contemporary performance, in an enjoyable knowing way, and recordings of a real life conversation the couple had in their flat about their experiences with Tim's illness. This is where the emotion came from for me, hearing Tim talk about what he'd imagined doing to himself, and Bryony desperately wondering "what would I do if I found you there" felt deeply difficult to listen to.
Visuals are how I remember my depression and so the medium of this kind of performance feels absolutely perfect. It's such an odd experience to look back on - this scary blur of time, with unsettling images mixed in: genuinely bizarre symptoms and sleep paralysis and feeling lost, and spaces feeling surreal. They captured this so well - throughout, but particularly in the scene where Tim is anxious and, quite literally, lost. It genuinely made me nervous to watch.
Tim wears a variety of head-based paraphernalia (a cloud, dark sunglasses, a nag's head) to avoid ever having to make eye contact with the audience - but it's also the perfect image. Feeling separate and detached and wanting to hide but feeling ever so noticeable, even when you don't want to be.
The word brave around sharing mental health issues bugs me sometimes - I suppose it's the idea that sharing is inherently brave, rather than a normal conversation. It makes me nervous when I've forgot to be, or chosen not to be. We don't always want to be brave.
But here, brave is the perfect word. To talk about suicide and still feeling afraid, after being silent for so long: that's most definitely brave. And also to be an advertising executive, with no previous performance experience, dancing on stage in your pants: that's brave!
This show is important, really important, but equally don't be put off by that word - it's an awful lot of fun, and a lovely, joyous thing to watch.
Fake It 'Til You Make It goes on tour in the spring.