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Review: Cracking Up

Gareth Berliner

Gareth Berliner

"Cracking up!" is showing at the Soho Theatre Studio, in London's West End on 19th and 27th April to coincide with the National Depression Awareness Week. A few days later it would also have coincided with the general election. Boy, those guys sure missed a trick there!
This slip of timing aside, host John Ryan presents a thought provoking show which laces the stark reality of mental health problems, from which one in four will suffer at some stage, with just sufficient wit and sparkle to prevent the production from becoming overly worthy.
A brace of sketches featuring John Webb and Sean Kearney are delivered with assured confidence but, for this reviewer at least, the star of the show is without doubt Gareth Berliner. An accomplished "stand up" possessed of masterly comic timing, Gareth's routine revolves around the intriguing story of his own attempted suicide, an attempt thwarted by the very illness (Crohn's disease) that drove him to contemplate taking his own life in the first place. Central to Gareth's theme was his despair at the way his mates pussyfooted around him as a youngster because of his disability - all he ever wanted was to be treated as a "normal kid".(A lesson here for us all in the way we react to the disabled surely?).

Too complicated to recount in full here, the tale is sufficiently uplifting to warrant on its own a visit to "Cracking up!". Suffice to say here that, eight years on, Gareth is still with us, full of beans and loving every minute of his life. Truly inspirational.
The show's producer, Maya Twardzicki, is to be congratulated for tackling a notoriously tricky subject with sympathy and compassion. Were it to do no more than to give its audience cause to reflect and count their blessings it would have performed a valuable service.
Feeling down? Go see "Cracking up!". What a tonic!