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Review of Digging Deep at VAULT Festival 2019

Digging Deep - Photo by Andrew James
Digging Deep – Photo by Andrew James

It’s not like 22-year-old Mossy (Kyle Rowe) – or Richard Moss, to give him his proper name, but he tersely detests being called that – hasn’t tried to say something about how he is feeling. He says, quite plainly, that he is “going to kill myself”, but even this is waved away dismissively. Kane (Matthew Woodhead) insists that statements like these are solely for the purposes of satisfying a craving on Mossy’s part for personal attention. Mossy does, at least in his mind, have one friend who will listen, Matt Burman (Jonny Green), to his plans.

The plans in question in Digging Deep are not about the methods by which Mossy plans to be taken by his own hand, but rather in building up a sufficient cash pot such that the funeral expenses are taken care of. As Matt puts it, Mossy could always live on for a while and thus have no funeral expenses at all, but Mossy is quite determined. Asserting a complete lack of interest in suicide prevention strategies, he “can’t wait anymore” but needs help with fundraising so his mother won’t be out of pocket.

Kane, in particular, is horrified – and continues to be the most cynical of Mossy’s friends right through to the final scenes. Jack (Josh Sinclair-Evans), the eager beaver in the group, starts generating as many ideas as he can. Matt, meanwhile, draws much strength from girlfriend Keeley, whom he name-drops so often that a ‘Keeley Jar’ is set up, along the same lines of a ‘swear jar’. The ideas for income and sponsorship, in the name of ‘charity’, are wide-ranging. There’s an amusing moment when Jack, in all seriousness, attempts to book the rock band the Arctic Monkeys for a charity gig, and another when six hundred onions are ordered by Kane. They are chopped up and, in videoed footage, thrown at the lads, whose eyes are streaming long before the exercise is over.

And so on, and so forth. The amount of money pledged steadily increases, as does Mossy’s social media following. Here’s my problem with all this activity – moral dubiousness aside, I’m not sure the campaigning would have been allowed to get to the stage it does in the play. There was a case of a pensioner who tried to crowdfund so he could afford to end his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. The crowdfunding website pulled the campaign, for fear that donors could be prosecuted under assisted suicide legislation. Elsewhere, a lady who was trying to raise money to cover expenses for her terminally ill mother had to cancel a fundraising event at the request of police, who warned her that she could face prosecution if she proceeded.

Therefore, the suspension of disbelief required to accept the narrative in this play is higher than usual. This should not, and does not, take away from some other highly important points the production makes. It says something, for instance, that these young men retain their friendships, however strained they become. The eulogies heard in the final moments of the show are especially poignant, as is the body language of the men, which underlines what is spoken and ‘speaks’ on behalf of what is not.

The conversations between the men are highly convincing as examples of banter between good friends, however technically inappropriate certain remarks may be. Skilled direction from Alistair Wilkinson keeps the production steady, making good use of available performance space. A moderately-paced, moving and mesmerising piece of theatre.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Digging Deep is supported by Lambeth Council, CALM and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.
Mossy is done with life. He’s from the shit end of nowhere, with a shit job, and a shit life. He’s tried to make it work, but it’s time for him to leave. Goodnight Vienna. But the thought of leaving his Mum with a five grand bill is hard… so he comes up with the ingenious plan to ‘Fundraise his own Funeral’. His three best mates; Kane, Jack and Matt are horrified but reluctantly rise to the challenge – hoping that the experience might just make Mossy change his mind. But as the campaign goes viral, the world’s press descends, and the boys start choosing coffins, Mossy begins to feel the pressure…

‘Digging Deep’ examines the rise of suicide in young men – and in particular, in young men from working class backgrounds. The play looks to explore the tight camaraderie within these communities, lack of opportunity, and feelings of frustration from young people becoming financial burdens on their parents.

The play also touches on the concept of euthanasia (ie, whether we should be able to make our own choice on when and how we’d like to die) and ties into the recent ‘Cost of Dying’ debate – in which bodies are being kept in morgues/funeral homes for up to a year to enable families to raise money for a funeral.

Most prominently, this play explores how so few young men feel that they can ask for help… even from those closest to them.

Digging Deep
20th-24th February 2019
Suitable 15+
https://vaultfestival.com

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