“Simple, direct, honest and brave.” Good Friday reviews and feedback

Some soundbites ….

“The songs are haunting and enveloping. They are easy to listen to, which might fool you into a false sense of security, for like depression itself, the deep dark grit is smouldering within. Simple, direct, honest and brave; there is a real sense that Parkin’s road to recovery hasn’t ended yet, but he’s getting there.” Total Theatre

“His gentle, soft-spoken manner is both breathtakingly funny and heartbreakingly eloquent.” Winnipeg Free Press

“Is about as painfully honest and darkly hilarious as small scale intimate theatre gets….a show that ultimately leaves you feeling full of hope and inspiration for the human spirit.” Simon Hollingworth, Drill Hall

“The show deals with his own experiences of depression and mental illness, but in a way which ultimately inspires and uplifts the audience…. The songs are beautifully simple, charming and witty…” Andrew Jemmett, Arena Theatre

Scrabble For Beginners – “perfectly captured the heightened, hysterical emotions simmering beneath the surface.”
Tonight The Stars – “is a powerful, dreamy song where he realises for the first time that he doesn’t want to die.
“This “chat” was, I think, successful in closing the gap between the audience and the performers and David took the opportunity to properly introduce Dave and Amy, who become more involved in the second half – reflecting David’s re-integration with people as his recovery continues.”
“Day at a Time reflects on David’s coping mechanisms and includes some heart-rending lyrics, and then there is Sweet Heart – a sweet love song with Amy contributing ethereal vocals, dedicated to his friend Sally, who first taught him some chords on the piano.”
Up – “It’s hopeful and lovely, and the cello playing in particular was beautiful.”
“The music was affecting and often beautiful, and this is an immensely brave and positive piece of theatre – depression should be discussed in a candid and open way and I think David Parkin has found an insightful, original and poetic way of doing this.” One Stop Arts, Emma Burch

“There can be few contexts beyond outright madness and song-performance where a whole roomful of people going “do do doo doodle ooo, do do doo doodle ooo” at full volume would pass as entirely unremarkable behaviour.” Hatch: Back

And now those reviews in full:

Good Friday appeared at SPILL. Here’s a review from Total Theatre:

“David Parkin’s piece, Good Friday: The Clinical Depression Concept Album Show was presented in a more formal style at SPILL Central. Parkin was on the stage with two very talented musicians and we sat, watched and listened. Yet the subject of Good Friday confronted us all with a stark reality that forced us to accept our complicity in society. For although clinical depression may be incredibly isolating and lonely it has a place in our society just as much as our home does. In this way, proximity can be quite uncomfortable as we acknowledge our responsibility, not just as an individual, but also as a group. The piece is built on a layer of social embarrassment; this isn’t the easiest of subjects to deal with, yet Parkin does it with humour, openness and an appealing awkwardness. Parkin’s Good Friday is a grown up version of show and tell. He has written some songs, which he plays to us and then chats about. The songs chart his depression and his road to recovery; we travel with Parkin from Crawley, and the dark depths of depression all the way Up to Thailand, stopping off for a spot of Scrabble for Beginners, a Killing Spree, and a visit to a Sweet Heart. The songs are haunting and enveloping. They are easy to listen to, which might fool you into a false sense of security, for like depression itself, the deep dark grit is smouldering within. Simple, direct, honest and brave; there is a real sense that Parkin’s road to recovery hasn’t ended yet, but he’s getting there.”

Total Theatre (Vicki Weitz) http://totaltheatrereview.com/features/spill-festival-performance

Good Friday appeared at The Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Here’s a review that it got from the big paper over there:

U.K. native David Parkin jokingly refers to his one-man show (his first) as a “clinical depression concept album.” And indeed, he unspools his song-cycle chronicling his battle with “the black dog” and his ongoing recovery through the healing powers of music and humour.

His big-hearted agenda is to turn the taboo about discussing depression into art. His gentle, soft-spoken manner is both breathtakingly funny and heartbreakingly eloquent.

The songs, particularly Scrabble For Beginners and Tonight the Stars, have a genuinely moving power that comes from their rawness and simplicity.

About halfway through the show, he informs the audience they’re sitting through a one-hour therapy session, but we’re the ones who are paying for it.

Considering what a open-hearted and engaging performer he is, we still end up getting more than our money’s worth.

— Ben Wiebe http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/fringe/reviews/Good-Friday-Music–Madness-214220411.html

“Good Friday, David Parkin’s piece about his musical recovery from a breakdown and suicide attempt, is about as painfully honest and darkly hilarious as small scale intimate theatre gets.
A uniquely brilliant cabaret style evening that is at times uncomfortable, but always compelling and actually very funny – a show that ultimately leaves you feeling full of hope and inspiration for the human spirit.”

Simon Hollingworth, Lincoln Drill Hall Creative Director

“David is a very warm, engaging and entertaining performer who captures the audience’s attention from the very start of the show. The show deals with his own experiences of depression and mental illness, but in a way which ultimately inspires and uplifts the audience.
The songs are beautifully simple, charming and witty, and give a moving and honest sense of David’s story. The two accompanying musicians, however, lift the show from the purely personal and help the audience share that story.
Although some of the songs relate dark and painful episodes in David’s life, they build into a narrative which is hopeful and inspiring, helping us all to better understand the realities of mental illness.”

Andrew Jemmett, Access and Inclusion, Arena Theatre

“Brave and insightful: Good Friday at the Battersea Arts Centre

On Good Friday 2009, David Parkin tried to kill himself. While recovering he decided to learn how to play the piano and found himself making a “Clinical Depression Concept Album” which is what he presents to us at the Battersea Arts Centre. Though not entirely successful, this piece is certainly brave, funny and brutally honest.
The Clinical Depression Concept Album Show is split into two halves. The first deals with David’s depression, and the second, his recovery. In between songs, he gives more detail on his story and provides us with eloquent insights on depression and some gags. He is accompanied by two talented musicians – Dave Dhonau on cello and bass guitar and Amy Nicholson on cello, glockenspiel and vocals. The set, which is designed by Nicholson, is appropriately gloomy. The space is dark, dank and foggy, and the piano takes centre stage, beside a small table with a lamp, a bottle of whisky and a knife.
David explains that we begin “at the worst possible time” and launches straight into the first song he wrote after coming out of hospital and is back at home with his parents. Titled Crawley, it is based on his suicide note and is the slowest and saddest song of the night, though not without the occasional injection of humour (going to Sainsbury’s to buy a knife and some whisky, and realising his shopping looks crazy). Significantly, it is the only song that he plays with no accompaniment from the other musicians.
Next is Scrabble for Beginners, which is accompanied by Dave on cello and recounts a story whereby he is playing Scrabble with his mum. They’re not playing competitively though, on account of David barely being able to count anymore and the “cognitive fog” of depression – the slow and plodding pace of the music brilliantly mirroring David’s state of mind. Their game is interrupted, however, when David receives a call from T-Mobile, who he gets rid of by saying that he is clinically depressed. At this, both David and his mum collapse into laughter and he tells us that this extraordinary moment of release and burst of hilarity is the highlight of his day. This song, incidentally, was my highlight of the show. It perfectly captured the heightened, hysterical emotions simmering beneath the surface.
Killing Spree and Tonight the Stars follow. The former marks a change of pace from the previous slower songs and is an entertaining, manic and jerky number that expresses David’s desire to kill all of his family (and is the only song that David admits is not entirely truthful). It is about his perception of reality “going to pot” as a result of all the drugs he was on and not being able to tell if his cat is “Satan or not”. The latter marks a turning point in David’s psyche, and is a powerful, dreamy song where he realises for the first time that he doesn’t want to die.
Before we head into the “recovery” portion of the evening, David chats candidly to the audience about depression and gets us to physically loosen up about it by stretching. This “chat” was, I think, successful in closing the gap between the audience and the performers and David took the opportunity to properly introduce Dave and Amy, who become more involved in the second half – reflecting David’s re-integration with people as his recovery continues.
Day at a Time reflects on David’s coping mechanisms and includes some heart-rending lyrics, and then there is Sweet Heart – a sweet love song with Amy contributing ethereal vocals, dedicated to his friend Sally, who first taught him some chords on the piano. Prior to this song David discussed Winston Churchill famously calling depression “Black Dog”, leading Amy to wear a fascinator featuring a black dog during the song, while Dave wore a heart shaped one. This seemed a bit unnecessary and a tad too kooky for my liking – something I felt more than once during the show. There were a few moments that just seemed a bit odd and that needn’t be there, such as the characterisation of Dave as an awkward mute. I also found David’s style of joke-telling to be somewhat stilted, and almost as if he was imitating some perceived style of speaking associated with stand-up comics.
A perhaps misguided sing-along session with the audience permeated the next song – an ode to his piano, Ernest. It was more cheery and up-tempo than any of the others and, while I enjoyed the song, I didn’t much enjoy the singing along. The final song continues the more optimistic theme. It tells the story of David’s holiday to Thailand, a year after the Crawley episode. It’s hopeful and lovely, and the cello playing in particular was beautiful. As the song continues, the set gradually gets brighter and the fog that clouded the stage at the beginning of the show dissipates completely. There is a wonderful cyclical element to this piece, where he says that he left a note in a tree, on which he wrote, among other things, that “it’s good to be alive”. Dave and Amy continue to play their cellos while David finishes his glass of whisky, turns off the lamps, goes to a tree to the left of the stage, and places a note there.
Although I found that not everything was entirely successful – the unwarranted kookiness and a somewhat stilted comic delivery in particular – these didn’t detract too much from a very good show. I mostly really enjoyed the songs (even if I was forced to sing). The music was affecting and often beautiful, and this is an immensely brave and positive piece of theatre – depression should be discussed in a candid and open way and I think David Parkin has found an insightful, original and poetic way of doing this.”

One Stop Arts (Emma Burch) http://onestoparts.com/review-good-friday-bac

A response to a collection of the songs played at Hatch, a Nottingham arts event.

“In a very different mode, former Metro Boulot Dodot member David Parkin negotiated a very particular relationship with himself, documenting his own fall into and recovery from a severe episode of clinical depression by way of a suite of songs going by the umbrella title Good Friday, a musical opus he insisted on describing as his ‘clinical depression concept album’. Adopting a smart suit (bought, he explained, as a costume, using Arts Council money, after years of trying and failing to obtain one by other means) and the patter of a cabaret performer, Parkin came across as a kind of Billy Joel figure, launching into songs about playing scrabble on grey Leicester Sundays in houses with empty knife drawers, feeling the urge to run destructively amok and, after a long, slow recovery (partly aided by the learning of piano, on a Hemingway he had inevitably named ‘Ernest’) his sudden appreciation of the beauty of stars in a night sky and realisation that despite the cosmic isolation, he no longer wanted to die. The music ranged from minimal and downbeat (the opener, ‘Scrabble for Beginners’, had the feel of a less baroquely obscene Arab Strap) to Rufus Wainwright campery and Chopin/Liberace-inspired romanticism. Like Sean Burn, Parkin seemed intent on changing the ways we talk about mental illness, but also – in using the language of the popular song – seemed aware that the form itself, with its tendency to focus on extreme emotional states, is already on some level a ready-made receptacle for the kinds of experience his own material poured into its familiar shapes and sounds. There can be few contexts beyond outright madness and song-performance where a whole roomful of people going “do do doo doodle ooo, do do doo doodle ooo” at full volume would pass as entirely unremarkable behaviour.”

Hatch: Back

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