Director: Rod Dixon
Writer: Chris O’Connor
Design: Ali Allen (set) Tom Blackband (Lighting and sound)
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
The Parting Glass is a development of The Life and Soul, a short one-man play which Red Ladder has been touring since 2016, and was written by Chris O’Connor following a period of ill mental health. Now a two-hander it explores how men are reluctant to talk about mental health issues, often until it is too late, as seen in the recent epidemic of male suicides.
Jim tells his story in the local pub and at first, seems to be the life and soul of the party who likes a drink or two down the pub and his main other emotional release is at the footie, his glorious Leeds United. Tom Swift belies the fact that this is his first professional performance and is entirely convincing and authentic in the role.
He meets Sara (a part played with aplomb by Alyce Liburd) while working in a Greek cafe in Leeds indoor market and their accounts of this are quite hilariously totally different. Jim sees himself as a confident and attractive character, wheeling her in with his charm. Sara, however, can see through this but finds his nervous self-consciousness quite endearing.
As the play progresses, writer Chris O’Connor reveals cracks in Jim’s personality, problems that Sara too is quite aware of. One aspect of this is an obsession with social media that leads to a detachment from reality. Also, his drinking is becoming a problem, which of course is a depressant in itself.
Whilst Sara encourages him to talk about the dark cloud that often comes over him he is less than forthcoming, putting on a brave face. While down the pub any attempt to explain how he feels is demeaned and simply adds to more binge boozing. Things take a turn for the worse with disasters at work and his decision to dump Sara, ostensibly to save her from hurt.
The tragic climax is a real tearjerker and brings home just how much pain Jim has gone through and the knock-on effect this has on family and friends. But, as made clear in the Q&A, this is by no means a maudlin play, rather highlighting what needs to be done to prevent such tragedies from occurring.
Reviewed on 17 September. Tours until 19 October | Image: Contributed