Review – Escape Route, Kyla Kares, Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students, The Platform, Northampton, 5th May 2019

Fringe FestivalMany of the shows at this year’s Fringe Festival came with trigger warnings. This show warned that it contained discussion about depression and suicide. I think, to be fair, that I also ought to give this blog review post a similar trigger warning. If you’re affected by suicide, or suicidal thoughts, please take care and breathe deeply before reading on.

Escape RouteSuicide. It’s a subject we have to talk about. The less we talk about it, the more people take their own life. As Kyla Williams tells us, in her bold and beautiful show Escape Route, suicide is the greatest killer of men under 40, but the statistics only tell us half the truth; although more men die at their own hand, many more women attempt suicide than men, which, it follows, means that many fail, maybe to be permanently injured or disabled as a result of their suicide attempt, or at least to continue to suffer the mental tortures that led them to trying suicide in the first place.

It’s a subject I’m willing to talk about, at length if need be; my friend’s sister took her own life many years ago by overdosing on paracetamol. There’s a sequence in Kyla’s performance where she describes the horrors of a “successful” paracetamol overdose, and I can confirm every word she says about how it causes a long, lingering, ghastly death. Two of my other closest friends have tried (fortunately, unsuccessfully) to take their own lives and I’m aware of the benefits of offering regular contact, and the open invitation to talk about anything. Just being there can save a life. Depression is a nasty business.

Kyla KaresWhilst there are a number of shocking, sad, even gruesome moments in the show, there are a number of elements that are wryly amusing – even thoroughly entertaining; for example, Kyla’s rendition of Peggy Lee’s classic Is that all there is? which I have to say was pure class. There are several extracts from verbatim accounts about how people live with depression which she invests with great character and emotion, using a wide range of voices and moods. She has a wonderful stage presence, and delivers her material with great conviction and commitment; and never has a red scarf been used for so many purposes with such creativity, subtlety and elegance.

Kyla makes no secret of the fact that this show is borne from much of her own experience, and it has been a difficult and sensitive journey bringing it to fruition. I can only say many congratulations to her for creating a very moving, powerful and honest show that may act as a catalyst to her and to her audience. And, always remember, keep an eye out for your friends.