By Michael Gray Griffith
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
18 -28th September 2019
Local, good news stories about suicide are rare, but this play is one of them.
His name was Guy May and when we received the dreadful news Michael saw the entire play in his head. Within two days it was written. He first showed it to me, the Wolves Producer and said, it’s a Suicide prevention play. My first reaction, too heavy. But then I read it, now I’m it’s Producer.
In our hearts and souls suicide is a dark grey colour, even black, making it very difficult to sell, but Michael has sent these four characters into this darkness and found colours I never knew were there.
Instead of being heavy and despairing, or worse, false and preachy the play tackles this subject seriously while using some of our greatest qualities; humour under stress, empathy and courage to deliver a brave story full of hope.
In less than two years we have travelled this idea from three stages in Victoria to a partnership with the MTC.
For our first season, I booked a small theatre in Prahran and put the call out for four actors. I asked all who were interested to read the script before auditioning. I wanted them to make sure they were ok with the material. They were more than ok. They were mad for it. Over several weeks they rehearsed in living rooms, often not together because of conflicting work schedules, and then together we put it on.
The only marketing we had was word of mouth and it worked. Not only did we start filling up but the audiences especially men, raved.
After every show Michael was mobbed with people congratulating us for being brave enough to be honest.
And all of them urged us to take the play everywhere.
Then Andrew Thompson, the manager of The Wedge Theatre in Sale came and loved it so much he booked it for a night. To prepare for this show we put the play on again. And again, we filled up.
Suicide prevention is an endless war and endless wars need new weapons. That’s what this play is, for not only is it a beautiful and important piece of theatre, but it opens people up, especially men, and gets them talking.
Felicity May about Mindframe and Marooned
On April 13 2018, The Age ran an article on a play by Michael Griffith then titled Sidelined which tackles the often-censored topic of suicide. ABC Radio National also aired interviews on Life Matters, Making a Play for Men.
The play now renamed Marooned is dedicated to my son Guy May who tragically took his life, impelling Griffith to take the risk and write a play about suicide. It was performed twice in Melbourne, Sale and has received strong endorsements.
Mindframe however has not endorsed the play due to concerns that the four fictional characters talk about methods used in an attempt to end their life. This has currently led to various organisations being reluctant to promote or sponsor the play in some way.
After perusing the Mindframe website, I read the play again. As I moved through the initial pages I felt a surge of doubt. Perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps openly discussing the various methods is not OK?
As I read on, I reconnected with the compelling narrative which depicts so persuasively the transient nature of suicide ideation and also its finality. The discussion of the various methods used is part of the realism and gives the characters reason to talk seriously to each other about their state of mind and motivation leading to such an undesirable finality.
The audience will emerge with a better understanding and greater awareness of the value of straight talking. The humour is real, not just comedic. It highlights the best in humanity as the characters overcome personal embarrassment, fear of exposure and more, finding new emotional connections within themselves and towards each other, hope for the future.
This is a play which can be performed at low cost venues, accessible to those in rural areas where suicide rates are high. Support prior to and following the play is proposed. Marooned needs to be endorsed by Mindframe. It is the end of the play not the methods depicted that impacts on the audience. It is time to end the silence, the sense of shame and to facilitate and acknowledge instead the immense courage needed to pull back from an intended suicide.