At the end of 2016, Melbourne’s tight-knit, hard-working and, in many cases, more talented than the pros fringe acting community suffered a shocking and incomprehensible loss. Actor Guy May took his own life. It is a rule for every good reviewer to remain subjective, to not talk about him or her self, but I’m going to break that rule, just for one paragraph, because though I had left that group some time earlier, but for a few close friends I stay in touch with, I could not believe there would be auditions, short films, and fringe plays taking place without Guy’s friendly, quirky, sometimes a little too honest presence. What would those readings in cold warehouses be, without his messy mop of hair bobbing about? What would other actors do, now that they didn’t have Guy’s camera, which he always had around his neck, to avoid the sights of? Where would we invest our fragile egos, if not in his unexpected but disarmingly sincere compliments? Here was a man whose smile seemed to open his very soul to you, who didn’t seem capable of holding back the tides of honesty, who became a friend with one benevolent look, and yet he left us bewildered. Did we know him so little? Are we that imperceptive? How could we have let this happen?
These were no doubt the questions which plagued writer and director Michael Griffith and producer Rohana Hayes when they set to work on Suicide Row, which focuses singularly on the enigmatic form chronic depression takes when it manifests inside a man. We were all raised believing boys shouldn’t cry. Men are strong, rational, and leaders. Men are not careless, or emotional. They are kings in the castles they build. We are now, all too late, seeing the devastation such thinking has wrought on generations of men. It is this patriarchal paradigm that Griffith and Hayes center their crosshairs on.
The story itself has appeared before, in a short play by Dan Haberfield, whether that was known to the producers or not. It is, however, expanded upon, with four men finding themselves in the titular situation; a sort of limbo-esq waiting room where attempted suicides await their fate. As with Haberfield’s play, the subject matter is handled with a mix of comedy and dark irony, as the men are forced to face their demons together. It is an effective means of conveying the disease of silence which men have drummed into their heads since birth, not all that much of a contrast to women, who are allowed to be emotional, but are not taken seriously.
It is a trend that needs to end, as Griffith and Hayes have again illustrated, it is with dialogue that we will achieve this. There is nobody someone won’t miss. There is nobody who deserves to wonder why a loved one is gone this way.
For immediate assistance, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
Review By: Max Davine
Pictures: Michael Griffiths