Performer: Josh Coates
Reviewer: Richard Hall
Josh Coates has guts. At the age of 24 and suffering from depression, he has created this one-man show about himself with the help of staff from the Royal Exchange’s Open Exchange artist development scheme. In the
In the show,he tells stories about his depression and how his condition has stimulated his interest in politics. He chooses to centre this on events in his home town of Bolton leading up to Christmas Eve in 2012 when he was hit by a car and first diagnosed with depression. It seems a very unlikely premise for an enjoyable show but in 50 minutes, due mainly to Coates’ engaging nature and natural on stage charisma, what emerges is an intriguing mix of insightful commentary on mental health and politics with some compelling and imaginative storytelling, which is impossible not to be charmed by.
Part stand-up and part spoken word. Over the productions development, Coates having suffered from depression for nearly four years has been able to some degree to get his life back as well as discover a newfound sense of artistic purpose. He doesn’t want the audience’s sympathy but rather as he say’s himself repeatedly “so that he can fit in”. What seems to be uppermost in his mind is to be able to break free from the destructive cycle of self-doubt and low self-esteem that lies at the heart of his depression. You have to admire Coates for sharing all of this in public and at such a young age.
Talking in great detail about mental health issues, looking for a job and visiting his G.P., Coates constantly switches from light-hearted comedy, intense political discussion to sudden bursts of almost uncontrollable anger. He is an exciting performer to watch who is at his most fascinating when talking about himself in the third person. At the beginning of the show when describing the bedroom where he shut himself away for a long time, he does it so effectively that the audience can almost visualise and picture him in it. Coates is at the very beginning of his career as an artist and on the evidence of this show clearly has the potential to develop into a performer and storyteller of the calibre of Chris Goode or Daniel Kitson. The Royal Exchange’s Open Exchange scheme is evidently doing a good job in identifying and nurturing local, raw talent.
At the end of the show, an almost apologetic Coates thanks the audience for their time. It should really be the other way round. For those suffering from depression and mental health problems there will be a lot in this show that strikes a chord and for those who don’t, they will instantly warm to Coates’ engaging and charming personality. Josh Coates’ mum, who he mentions a lot, will be delighted that by compiling this show that her son has got himself together and by performing it is also hopefully enabling others to do so as well.
Runs until 7 May 2016 | Image: Alexander Steven Lui