According a report published in 2020 by the UK mental health charity ‘Mind’, one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health issue each year with one in six experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression in any given week. This research serves to show how common anxiety is, but yet many people are afraid to open up when they are suffering. This is why Everything is Absolutely Fine by House of Blakewell live from The North Wall is such an important piece of theatre.
The musical tells the story of Alice Keedwell (played by Alice Keedwell) as she navigates life in a new town, in an attempt to embark on a fresh start away from the big city, alongside her much-loved job as an occupational therapist – but there’s a catch! She is not alone in her journey, her faithful sidekick anxiety, personified by Harry Blake, is at her side wherever she goes reminding her just how scary and rubbish life is, and how terrible she is at it.
As someone who suffers with anxiety myself I found Everything is Absolutely Fine a compelling watch. The minimal set, consisting of just Keedwell and Blake on a black low lit stage, enabled the audience to focus on Alice and emotions rather than being distracted by a busy backdrop. Blake and Keedwell were the only cast members, with any dialogue between Alice and people she meets being seen through her perspective and acting out her actions without props or changing sets. This required a lot of imagination but it, as aforementioned, pooled the audience’s focus and made the experience far more intimate.
Everything is Absolutely Fine relied heavily on facial expressions to convey the emotions our main character was experiencing and the increasing and decreasing of the score set the tone with the music swelling when she faced moments of extreme panic. It felt raw, and was a brutally honest depiction of what it is like living with an anxiety disorder, which is something I really appreciated, while also making it funny with the inclusion of the ballad “Alice you’re a Twat’ which helped to lighten the mood and in turn reduce the stigma around anxiety.
However, in the same vein parts of the musical were rather hard to watch for the more casual, light-hearted musical theatre fan. The intense focus on her negative emotions were often so relatable to the audience, it was hard not to feel the same anxiety Alice felt. The links to areas where people could get help, and the poignant monologue in the conclusion did an excellent job of ensuring any who felt especially triggered by the dark topics at play here were well supported.
Overall, though, triggering the feelings of anxiety we all feel was extremely pertinent and successfully put across to viewers regardless of their situation what it is like inside the mind of someone living with pretty extreme anxiety. With one in six of us experiencing symptoms of anxiety on any given day, I would highly recommend this show to anyone seeking a unique musical to make you think, and who wishes to better understand how their friends, family, or even they themselves are feeling in this increasingly chaotic modern world.
As Alice realises at Everything is Absolutely Fine’s conclusion, understanding mental health and living with it might be hard, but you have to start somewhere, and the audience are all granted a better understanding by the end of the show. Alice’s story is one that will stay close to my heart as a powerful image of strength in the face of anxiety, and the ability to move forward, even if it is scary.
Everything is Absolutely Fine was funded in part by the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, a charity that aims to support young people suffering with mental health in order to prevent young suicide. You can find out more about them here.