Living with the Lights On is written and performed by Mark Lockyer. I’m often suspicious of such shows but this story can only be told by Mark. It’s his own story of his struggle with mental illness and experiences of the medical and criminal justice system. It’s a tale that needs to be told.
Mark trained at RADA and has a successful acting career. In 1995 he was playing Mercutio with the RSC in Stratford upon Avon. Taking a stroll along the river one day he had a strange encounter which resulted in him abandoning his relationship and promising career, embarking on a journey to hell and taking his loved ones along for the ride.
This is a very personal tale, told with honesty and humour by a skilled actor. Mark greets the audience at the door, welcomes us into the theatre and encourages us all to have a cup of tea and a biscuit. He then explains that he’s going to tell us a story, his story. For the next 75 minutes he commands the room, drawing us into his world and confessing his sins. As his world gets darker and darker, he loses control and starts making dangerous decisions for himself and those around him.
The important element of this show is the storytelling; the set is simple with a table, chair and step ladder. Mark tells his story, in his own words, and voices other characters he interacts with in a mix of voices and facial expressions. His energetic highs and lows mirror his mental state as the story progresses.
The message is that mental illness can happen to anyone and, with the right support, care and treatment; it is possible to come out the other side and rebuild a life, as Mark has done. Alongside the theatre tour, the show is being performed for mental health service users and staff in clinical environments; a nod of thanks to the professionals who supported Mark’s recovery.
The story ends with a simple, “thanks for listening”. I’m glad I did.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Living With The Lights On is playing at the Young Vic until 19 March