Review: Reasons To Stay Alive, York Theatre Royal to Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568/

ONE reason to see Reasons To Stay Alive is that author Matt Haig lived in York for seven years. Not that the city is mentioned in April De Angelis’s adaptation of his novel.

De Angelis’s framing device is to have two Matt Haigs on stage, Phil Cheadle’s Older Matt, successful author, narrator and guardian angel to Mike Noble’s Younger Matt, 13 years his junior, in the grip of depression and not eating or sleeping in Ibiza.

“This is impossible,” says Older Matt at the outset, as a crater cracks open to reveal Younger Matt and girlfriend Andrea (Janet Etuk) on an Ibizan dancefloor. It is difficult for him to observe his worst days of yore, but he is on hand at all times to offer comfort, assurance, counsel. “I know that pain. I survived. Let me help you,” says Older Matt as his younger self talks of “this pain of being alive”.

The adaptation follows the book as Matt returns home to his parents (Chris Donnelly and Connie Walker), and he plays out one of the book’s core moments, as he struggles to walk alone to the local shop to buy milk, the outside world so claustrophobic. Older Matt looks on, encouraging him.

For all the production’s presence in the main house, Reasons To Stay Alive is more of a chamber piece in style. The show takes time to bed in, but gradually it does so, and while the parents and Dilek Rose’s trio of supporting characters tend towards caricature, Etuk’s Andrea emerges as the second key figure here: almost a saint, such is her devotion to Matt. The ups and downs of their relationship are the play’s strongest, most tangible suit.

Charles Hutchinson