There are few shows that bring comedy into a serious issue and still resonate with the audience… and yet Ken Kaden has managed to keep that vary spirit of Nick Hornby’s novel “A Long Way Down” via his staged adaptation.
But first a little about “A Long Way Down”:
In his fourth novel, New York Times-bestselling author Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they’ve reached the end of the line.
Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year’s Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.
In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.
Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, A Long Way Down is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.
Yep… you read that right, funny but in a very thought provoking way even Ken admits as such via the Facebook invitiation:
Some oddities about “A Long Way Down!” :
1. It’s about suicide, and we hope to make you laugh.
2. It’s a staged reading, and most of the lines are memorized.
3. It’s not a musical, and music is important throughout.
4. One of the characters is famous, and nobody likes him.
5. Admission is free, and we hope you will give generously to a worthy cause.
6. It is first-come, first-served, and we hope to turn no-one away.
So now that you are semi-familiar with the adaptation and realize that it will open this coming weekend, why am I writing about it now?
Because I had the pleasure of meeting this very special man at around this time last year and knew then that this was someone that 1) needed to find his way and 2) is someone that I would love to be friends with.
The concept of youth suicide is something that is known but rarely talked about (in polite company) because for those of us that are living we can’t always grasp the concept of wanting to end our lives… for us the natural order of things is self-preservation. The desire to live…
However, there have been those of us where the concept of self-preservation is so inundated in the world of negative emotions, regret, drama, depression, self doubt… etc etc etc that it gets lost unless we find that inner voice that reminds us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And even then we human are gifted (or cursed, depending on one’s point of view) with the character of “free will” that ultimately we decide if life is worth living.
To some… the answer to that is “no” and to others (moreso than one would like to admit) it becomes more of an “I don’t know” because to them death – at that moment in time – is far more preferable than continuing on.
Ken started on this endeavor of adapting “A Long Way Down” as a way to come to terms with his son’s decision and continues to attempt to cope with the unanswered questions. Within this process of adapting the book, he surrounded himself with incredibly talented and caring people who not only understand the depth of the whys of this particular situation, but are ready and willing to give their talent to aid a friend.
The cast and crew are largely close friends of Ken Kaden most of whom he has met over the years and I had the pleasure of being able to see a rehearsal earlier this week as they prep for the production to come…
Now… since I am part of the crew I cannot give my opinion of the show… however if I wasn’t… it would be rather positive. Another friend came to see the rehearsal and had this to say:
I saw a dress rehearsal for this tonight. Many people are going to support the Kadens. Great. Others are going because they believe it’s for a Worthwhile Cause. Also great. Now, for the rest of you? Go see it because it’s a great fucking show, no matter what the subject matter is. Most of the discussions have placed an emphasis on the topic of suicide. What’s not being communicated is how funny the show is. It ultimately has a serious, compassionate point of view but… it’s *British*. Think of it as “Blackadder Goes Forth Does a Suicide Episode.” Or “Hitchhiker’s Guide” or “Python”, although “Blackadder” is the best fit.
Now I have my own reasons for wanting to move heaven and hell to participate in this production in what little way that I can. However, the primary reason of doing so lies in the man that loved and lost someone dearly and is slowly finding ways to move on. As a friend… being a part of that journey is an honor and a joy and one that I will continue to do so until the end (even if there is no end).