With the cultural narrative swirling around how men control and coerce women, Henry Devas’ well-timed debut tackles another side of toxic masculinity: male depression and suicide.
Matt, a witty wannabe stand-up, is trapped in his boarded-up flat with two “mates” – Withnail-ish posh Tristabel and chaotic Benzies – as a war rages outside. As the unlikely comrades try to pluck up the courage to climb a mysterious ladder and escape to the even more mysterious “up”, they exchange excruciatingly cruel banter, most of which is targeted at Matt, who is mocked about his weight, his previous suicide attempts, the breakdown of his relationship and his bad breath.
The writing is powerful and vicious, but the role of humour within the play is problematic: the many laughs derived from piercing cruelty feel uncomfortable. Rather than highlight life’s absurdity, the friends’ insults are offered as straight-up funny. We’re Staying Right Here does deliver real emotional heft when Matt’s true predicament is revealed, but it comes too late and the difficult subject matter is ultimately underexplored.
Elizabeth Wright’s scuzzy flat set hits all the right notes but feels overly fussy, while Jez Pike’s direction keeps energy levels high but lacks light and shade. The four-strong cast let off verbal grenades with ease and Danny Kirrane’s thoroughly watchable performance as charming, kind and talented Matt, whose self-loathing is ripping him apart, is gut-wrenching to watch.
Although tonally uneven and sometimes ill-judged, We’re Staying Right Here is an interesting look at a difficult subject from a writer with plenty of promise.