SUICIDE IS PAINLESS?
To the Noel Coward Theatre last night with the mighty brood for a long-overdue family outing, to see a show we have been meaning to get to for years. 'Dear Evan Hansen', the 9-Tony-nominated, 6 Tony-winning ('Best Musical', 'Best Book', 'Best Score', 'Best Actor' and 'Best Featured Actress') showcases the partnership of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Academy-Award-winning songwriters of 'City of Stars', and songs for 'The Greatest Showman', with a book by Steve Levenson.
Its storyline is inspired by the true story of lyricist Benj, who experienced the death of a classmate from drug overdose, and who subsequently became aware of other friends in class making up stories about their dead friend's life. False memory syndrome, you might say, in the extreme. This bold, challenging piece with brilliant, apparently familiar, palinacoutic songs confronts the fall-out from the pressures of social media, particularly on vulnerable teenagers.
Evan suffers from social anxiety. He imagines a friendship with a suicide-victim school chum, in a hapless attempt to comfort the deceased's family. Only after their son's death do his parents and sister try to connect with the lost child.
I admit, the show's handling of the theme of suicide made me uneasy. Especially when I read the World Health Organisation's estimate that between 10 and 20% of adolescents worldwide experience mental health conditions that go undiagnosed and untreated.
But suicide is not really the point of 'Dear Evan Hansen'. It's theme is that, whoever we are, we all deserve a second chance. To make good our mistakes and to go again. To find meaning. For what is truth if not perspective and personal experience?
According to the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, 'Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.'