Matt McGuinness’ new show, which previewed in Belper on Saturday 23rd February, before going on nationwide tour, is comfortable.
That doesn’t sound like a glowing review, but the creation of comfort within this show is crafted, valuable, and necessary. It impressed me.
The location of No. 28 wasn’t perfect in some ways, most especially for lighting, which is designed for a stage where there is no audience opposite the lighting, rather than along the side of a room, where it shines into the eyes of that side-audience. But the layout and intimacy of No. 28 also worked very well to create an almost living room feel to the performance. Some songs needed a bigger venue to have their full impact.
The show opens with introductions of musicians, and then of the show’s focus – mental health. At times this show is like a series of small polished TED talks on Mental Health, Parenting, Humanism and Love, but these are punctuated by poetic songs loaded with meaning and metaphor.
The other musicians performing with Matt are all impressive, whether playing guitar, saxophone, spoons or tin whistle.
Along the way, the serious focuses almost unnoticeably decline, as if healing is being performed, and the happier focuses rise in tone and weight, mirroring the consequences of therapy. We go the full gamut from suicidal tendencies to the funny things children do. It’s never hysterically funny, but it is gently amusing. It’s never horrifying, or awkward, or painful. It’s comfortable. A smile which is crafted in the audience, building therapeutically, so everyone ends up, not just believing, but feeling the key message of the show – no-one has to be alone.
It is a very brave thing to expose one’s weaknesses on stage, over and over, and not only perform but invite discussion and questions, many of which are personal. Matt is humble, self-deprecating and grateful, and this well crafted show is sure to help the cause he created it for – to help people be comfortable enough to speak to someone when they need to.