It felt timely to watch Everything is Absolutely Fine at the end of Mental Health Awareness week, when discussions around mental health are very much at the forefront of the media. This brilliant musical presents a raw and honest insight into what it is like to live with anxiety. It certainly struck a chord with me, as I’m sure it will with so many. At times it was like watching back scenes from my own life, which made it difficult, yet somewhat therapeutic, viewing.
The show begins with the repeated snoozing of an alarm clock, followed by the opening number in which Alice Keedwell cheerfully states that “Everything is absolutely fine”. We become familiar with that mantra during the show, as Alice struggles to manage her anxiety in a variety of situations, from going down the pub to her work as an Occupational Therapist. The role of anxiety is played by Harry Blake, who is also pianist throughout. His monotone voice, at first a little jarring, is in fantastic contrast to Alice’s cheery composure. The perfect way to demonstrate how someone struggling with anxiety may appear happy and confident on the outside, whilst inside they are having a constant battle with their own thoughts.
One scene in a café struck as startingly familiar, Alice decides to go to a local “cool” café in her new hometown. She goes with the best of intentions and starts chatting to the barrister. But despite her outward optimism, she starts to panic, bumping into tables and eventually spilling coffee on someone. Throughout this scene, we hear her anxiety giving commentary, telling Alice “they want you to shut up”, “why are you so awkward”. Her anxiety also rears its head the morning after a night out, where it questions everything she said and how much she embarrassed herself. This is a spot-on analysis of what it seems like when trying to fit in, or when imagining the judgement of strangers (whether or not they have even noticed you). The level of self-judgement is difficult to witness at times, being all too familiar to both my own experience and that of close friends who have confided in me about their own struggles with anxiety.
The show is live streamed to good effect, although it did leave me wondering how Alice managed some very speedy costume changes. The musical aspects of the show work beautiful, they are funny and emotional, from the cheery opening number to the stunning ballads later on. Alice’s voice is sensational throughout. Alice and Harry had me in the palm of their hands for the hour-long show, testament also to the smooth camera work and evocative lighting used to great effect throughout.
The final moments are intensely moving. Alice faces up to her anxiety, challenging the control it has over her. She also confesses to her new friends and colleagues about how she feels, many of whom it turns out feel the same or offer her support. A line I found had such beauty was “It’s amazing how many people you find who are endlessly kind”. Despite her anxiety, she can finally move forward with her life. It is at this moment that I realised that this was Alice’s real story. This isn’t the end of her struggles with anxiety, but it was a pleasure to see how far she had come and to witness such honest confessions throughout this well-polished show.
Written by: Alice Keedwell
Music and Lyrics by: Harry Blake
Directed by: Valentina Ceschi
Produced by: Hannah Elsy Productions and House of Blakewell
This show has completed its current run. Check website for future showings.