The first stage adaptation of Matt Haig’s best-selling 2015 autobiographical book, Reasons to Stay Alive, comes to The Courtyard Theatre at The Leeds Playhouse where Leo Owen caught the show.

IN 1999, Haig suffered a crushing emotional breakdown while staying in Ibiza which almost lead to his suicide and took three years to recover from with the support of his girlfriend and later wife, Andrea (Janet Etuk). In reaction to this, years later he wrote Reasons to Stay Alive, the self-help book he believes he’d have found useful to aid his own recovery.

Haig’s honest, and at times, funny book received celebrity endorsements from the likes of Stephen Fry to Jo Brand but successfully dramatising one man’s very personal internal battle is a tough brief. April de Angelis tackles this challenge by adapting for the stage, alongside choreographer Jonathan Watkins in a joint Crucible and English Touring Theatre production.

The characteristic lists of Haig’s book are used in Angelis’ 75-minute adaptation to give structure. She also has her six cast members chant famous names of depression sufferers to illustrate the wide-reaching effects of depression. Two actors embody Haig’s contrasting personae as the 24-year-old (Mike Noble) teetering on a breakdown and the reflective older guardian angel Haig (Phil Cheadle). Other successful visual symbols of depression, depicting its manifestations include an actor wearing a devil mask licking the younger Haig’s cheek during a theatre visit to Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.

Designer, Simon Daw, seems to be inspired by how abstract the concept of depression is with his set resembling a puzzling art installation piece, vaguely reflecting the inside of a brain. This curious versatile structure of three portable screens rotates, opens and closes with cast using it as a climbing frame at times, hiding behind it or using it to hang props.

Much like the album Haig worked on with Andy Burrows (ex-drummer for both Razorlight and We Are Scientists) inspired by this book, the stage adaptation is a complement to the book, rather than a substitute for reading it: here, we are less inside Haig’s head and more watching from afar. Helping to remove the stigma from depression, Reasons to Stay Alive is moving and occasionally sentimental, poignantly reflecting how claustrophobic depression can feel.

Reasons to Stay Alive showed in the Courtyard Theatre 13-16th November: