Dark comedy A Bench at the Edge tugs on your heartstrings and starts the conversation of male mental health with its performance at The Kings Arms, Salford.

From the 20-23 of February, Theatre of Heaven and Hell will take over the stage with its portrayal of the story of two men coming together at a bench at the edge of the abyss, and show that life is truly precious after all.

In a small cafe near the Kings Arms, cast member 23-year-old Louie Threlfall discussed the deeper meaning within the play, and the reflection of today’s issues of mental health.

A Bench at the Edge, first produced by Luigi Jannuzzi in 1981, is a tale of a man sat at the edge of the abyss watching the human race rush past him. Along comes a second man contemplating a ‘heroic dive’. The question of ‘Who are these men?’ and ‘What is this abyss?’ emerge and the concepts and visions behind their confrontation show that life is worth it in the end.

In the 50 minute piece, with a simple setting of a sole bench, a tale is told between 2 men, called Man 1 and Man 2, who may differ in personality but fit together like jigsaw pieces. Louis Threlfall plays Man 2, a business man who contemplates ending his own life at the beginning of the piece.

“He is transformed by an experience when a man simply says hello, and stops him in his tracks.”

“Man 2 feels like he’s got no other alternative, but the moment that someone reaches out and says hello, it stops him.”

Alongside Louie, Man 1 is played by Marius Clements, who Louie describes as the Yin to his Yang, and the contrast in characters can be shown through costume and voice.

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The dynamic of the two allows for the dark comedy to flow, with the two actors knowing each other before performing so the bond their characters make is only strengthened by their previous connection.

The audience response to Theatre of Heaven and Hell’s production has shown the credit of the performance, with many taking to social media to congratulate those involved.

But to Louie, to capture reality in the performance was important: “Life is filled with so many peaks and troughs.

“In 50 minutes there’s bound to be as many peaks and troughs, we have to tell a story this is just as inconsistent.”

A Bench at the Edge portrays the discussion of male mental health, and starts the conversation to show that its ok to not be vulnerable, and in a world telling you to man up, that you should just be yourself.

“It’s OK that you’re not OK. It’s good to talk.

“You can talk in whatever depth you need to but if you bottle it inside like a champagne bottle, if you cork it up and you shake it far too hard, some point the bubbles going to burst out of that thing.”

Teaching its audience the importance of letting out your emotions, A Bench at the Edge has collaborated with CALM, the campaign against living miserably, and for every ticket sold, £1 will go towards the charity.

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In the past year the conversation on male mental health has grown as the stigma has been addressed by numerous organisation, with ITV recently having sculptures of 84 on its roof to raise awareness of male suicide. W

As a big advocate for male mental health, Louie discussed the importance in talking in today’s society where you are forced to hold it in and be ‘manly.’

“In a world where we are basically so told to man up ‘Be like a man’ or ‘Don’t feel.’ In that kind of world it’s better to say ‘It’s OK to be vulnerable’, and I hope that people feel that way.”

Aside from the stage, Louie has been involved in some TV shows with an appearance in Holby City, and a regular on ‘Age Before Beauty’, a BBC1 series of a dysfunctional family in Manchester that run a beauty salon.

Overall, A Bench at the Edge allows its audience to question the topic of male mental health, and show that there is always a way out of depression. Whether you are a Man 1 or a Man 2, its creators hope that conversation can change and save lives from the abyss.

For more information on Theatre of Heaven and Hell, check out their website, or Facebook .

For more information on whats going on at The Kings Arms, check out their website .

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