Heartbreaking show about one man’s struggles with mental health comes to Ulverston

A heartbreaking hit theatre show written by a former Barrow journalist about one man’s struggles with mental health comes to Ulverston.

A wonderful one-man show about the struggles of a young actor makes its Cumbrian stage debut next month.

Written by Barrovian Phil Pearson Blackpool, What a S*!# Place To Die follows the struggles of Billy Costello – a young, gay, depressed, autistic actor with a drug problem – during what could prove to be his last few days alive in Blackpool.

After a sell-out UK tour the play will be having a three week stint at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival.

The play has packed out theatres in London and the North West and is now coming to the Laurel and Hardy Museum on April 25.

A collection for local mental health charity Mind in Furness will take place on the night.

Phil is an  award-winning playwright, whose seven plays have been performed in Ireland and across England in the past four years. He is also a journalist and has worked locally in Barrow, for the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent. Now living in Manchester.

His latest play is based on the real life experiences of lead actor Mark Newsome - who plays  Billy Costello.

Phil said: “"I'm really proud of how this play has been received in Manchester and London, but I can't wait to bring it to Ulverston - especially as it features the music of great, local songwriter Jon Byrne.

"Mark Newsome is one of the best actors I have seen anywhere and has mesmerised audiences with his very personal performance in this play. We have had a very positive reaction from people for raising and talking about the issue of mental health, especially for young men.

"The play is based on Mark's own life and experiences and it has resonated with people who have been through similar things."

Actor Mark explained how he had wanted to write a one-man show for a while but didn’t know where to start.

He added: “Phil  saw me in a show and got in contact to say he wanted to write for me. I met him and we both clicked. I told him my ideas about doing a show based on my life and experiences and he instantly got it.

“Phil is a superb writer and has an intrinsic eye for detail. The character is very much based on my experiences - it’s a version of me. I call it the darker side of  me when I was in bad place.

“I approach Billy Costello in the same vein as any other character. What are his flaws, why he thinks and does the things he does. Make him as real as possible. 

“It’s a very emotional and physically demanding role. To revisit old memories can be hard.

“We did the show in Manchester and it went down a storm with audiences and reviewers and had standing ovations both nights, which was totally unexpected. It’s dark and twisted but, hopefully, has a few laughs in there, too. 

“We have a cracking team and I’m very proud of it.

“It’s raw, honest and real. It is hard-hitting on the emotions. Completely, brutally honest.

“It talks about issues that aren’t usually raised in theatre. Hopefully, it’ll make the audience think and feel about things differently. 

“It looks at gay life in a different way. It’s not all Nicki Minaj concerts, Grindr and feather boas - it’s also loneliness, despair and despondency. It’s heartbreaking, raw emotional truth.

“I hope that mental health will be talked about more and not be such a stigma. It’s okay not to be

“Suicide is the biggest killer in young men. I hope it will make people understand more about loneliness. About being gay – it can be incredibly isolating.

“More and more, people are starting to talk about mental health but we still have a long way to go.”

Tickets can be bought here: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/467592

Reviews have been glowing: “Oldham-based Newsome portrays Costello with truth, integrity, clarity and a passion - delivering real-life emotion as his on-stage person’s life unravels in captivating style.

Pearson’ s fast-paced writing is handled with care and skill by Newsome. Moments of black comedy give the audience relief from the glorious tension - the laughter and tears producing contrasting emotions as Costello’s ;s character confronts his demons.

The show includes projection sequences and, coupled with astute work from director Grace Cordell, results in a beguiling, memorable piece of theatre.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this show is criticism of the state of Blackpool - however the backdrop of the seaside resort works perfectly as an attraction for Costello and his tumbling state of mind. The show will provoke as much discussion about the perception of Blackpool as it does about family relationships, sexuality and mental health.”

Show trailer: https://youtu.be/hVQtkC3YFkg

Phil Pearson

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