Someone once said that ‘Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ It’s a neat philosophy that doesn’t work for those who can no longer bear the weight of a troubled existence.
Writer/director Dean Moynihan’s play, Human Issue, a one-man show, attempts to address the circumstances, such as social isolation, unemployment, and failed love relationships, that place men – in particular middle-aged men – at risk of committing suicide.
What clouds the issue is that Moynihan presents us with a character, Frank, who is so abrasive, repugnant and shouty that it is difficult to piece together why suicide would be an option for him. He’s obnoxious and damn proud of it, too.
When we meet Frank (Mark Savage) he’s standing on a stool with a noose around his neck. A video screen displays his flat stripped bare, thanks to a visit from the bailiffs. He’s an unemployed stand-up comic living an isolated existence. He’s also a master of the blame game – one who lacks any semblance of reflection – it’s always the other guy’s fault. ‘I hate self pity, he says, I prefer to see myself as a victim.’
Frank quotes various philosophers, which seem more the playwright’s need to present him as an erudite individual, rather than an exploration of what a despondent individual would tell us as he contemplates death.
Curiously, it is in Frank’s crass comments that we sense what lurks behind his emotional fortress. His inability to take responsibility for his actions – like shitting on a woman’s doorstep – offer a glimpse of his own personal truth. ‘See what a vile character I am,’ he seems to be saying, ‘don’t waste your love and affection on someone as unworthy as me.’
Mark Savage is ferocious in maintaining Frank’s anti-social veneer but there is a moment in the narrative where his boisterous facade needed to collapse. It is the moment when he discusses his own mother’s suicide – death by hanging. How much more powerful if Frank had dropped to his knees in silence, finally unable to speak, rather than to immediately slip back into the same old rant.
The connection would’ve been made that not only did he lose a parent, his innocence and his childhood but that tragedy was a shadow he could not shake.
Frank, speaking as a child survivor of parental suicide, brought to mind Sylvia Plath’s children, two tots asleep in their cots and unaware their mother was about to end her own life in the next room. Her son, Nicholas Hughes, an academic and fisheries biologist, hung himself at age 47.
Human Issue is an important piece of writing with a dedicated writer/director, Moynihan, and fiercely passionate actor, Savage, committed to raising the alarm on the numbers of men who take their own lives each year. If at some point in the narrative, Frank’s character should choose to drop the mask, it has the possibilities of a powerful play.
Review by Loretta Monaco
One night only performance at Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham, London
Human Issue is a 60 minute one man metal theatrical play, written by Dean Moynihan & performed by Mark Savage as Frank, an unemployed stand up comedian who’s experiencing issues at a stage in his life that puts him in a high risk of the most common cause of death in men in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, straddling beyond borders of the UK.
Savage Theatre Co. presents
written & directed by Dean Moynihan
Sunday 6th October at 5pm
Running Time: 60 minutes
18+. Themes around suicide.