An Honest talk about men’s mental health

By distilling the essence of a drunken public servant named Dave in his Adelaide Fringe performances of DC Moore’s one-man play Honest, British actor and activist Matt Hyde tapped into the undercurrent of discontent and despair that flows down the office hallways in our CBD. His time in the role, which he previously performed in London and Edinburgh, has inspired him to become an advocate for men’s mental health.

Matt Hyde | photo supplied

The Bar at Treasury 1860, on the corner of King William Street and Franklin Street at the tip of Victoria Square, is quite literally in the heart of the central business district. It exists in the shadows of the State Administration Building, home to the Premier’s Office and the state’s most senior public servants, who often can be sighted in the beer garden nursing an early evening beverage and mumbling about budget cuts, efficiency dividends and office politics. As a Fringe venue, then, it was the ideal place to find a receptive audience for DC Moore’s workplace satire, as Matt explains.

“You could see people visibly cringing and looking very awkward. There’s a lot of uncomfortable laughter and silence because people just really identified. It wasn’t just the public service. It was any office, corporate environment. The dynamics, the hypocrisies, all the little office niggles that go on between people, and it just brought it all to the forefront.”

“I did have a few people who came up to me and said ‘thank you but I need to go because I’ve just watched my life for the past 45 minutes.’”

– Matt Hyde

Matt explains how the show’s unique setting allowed him to truly glimpse the audience’s reaction to the work.

“Because the show was performed with no [stage] lights, no sound, no props, no costumes, I could see the audience in full glare of the lights squirming and laughing and nodding in agreement and that was really powerful for me I think because this was really touching a nerve.”

While mental illness does not discriminate, recent figures suggest that white men in their 30s and 40 like Honest’s Dave, kill themselves at a disproportionately high rate; seven in ten suicides come from this demographic. Matt explains how Honest’s subject matter can give some insight into why such a disparity exists.

Honest poster | image supplied

“It touches on themes of loneliness, isolation, alcohol dependency, anger management, and just not talking, not being able to ask for help and bottling it up. Like anything that is bottled up, it comes to the point when it explodes and this play is about that moment.”

By openly addressing these important themes, the play encouraged men to talk before they reach crisis point. Matt explains how some local men’s health groups got involved in the production.

 “We had a lot of really fantastic people come on board the project, like the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health at Adelaide University. They came along and they were a group of scientists and psychologists and researchers all into male health and they just really identified.”

While Matt already has a history of activism, having worked in Borneo to protect orangutans, this latest production has motivated him to become an advocate for men’s mental health.

“Now the play is over, I think it’s really important to keep that conversation going.”

 “People say ‘man up’. Literally. I hate that phrase because I think it’s ok for a man to not be ok. And I think the consequences of doing the so-called manning up can be devastating.”

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