Arthur’s going through a lot. His parents sold their family home and moved to France. The debris of his life now lies in boxes scattered in his flat, ready to be taken into storage because the new place he’ll be sharing with his girlfriend Tara isn’t big enough. His hoity-toity brother Ethan – older by 12 months – seems to have the perfect existence with his regular therapy session and smug attitude.
Arthur is spiralling, and everyone has noticed. Everyone except for Arthur himself who – even after acknowledging his non-existent libido, the artist block that’s been preventing him from finishing his latest painting, and hyper-sensibility to touch – is in denial.
Jack Fairey’s character (played by Michael Ayiotis) finds refuge in storytelling, identifying himself a little too much with ambitious figures who failed horribly and tragically. Doubts and despair fill Arthur’s days, and he quickly becomes a recluse. He takes solace in the stories from his childhood as he struggles to paint, but alienates his nearest and dearest in doing so.
The Greek myth of Icarus and Felice Benuzzi’s mountaineering exploits from the book No Picnic on Mount Kenya inspire Arthur. Ayiotis runs full speed ahead into Fairey’s dynamic script, illustrating his character’s vivid imagination. He is entrancing as he handles the tonal shifts of the piece accompanied by George Jennings‘s melodious and delicately rhythmic score.
While the start sounds slightly like the prologue in a coming-of-age film, Ayiotis’s delivery grows into being more instinctive and organic the more he goes on. The lyrical vein in Fairey’s text comes as detailed brushstrokes highlighted by his direction. Colourful sheets and multicoloured feathers accompany Arthur’s manic phase in a brilliant juxtaposition with the darkness of the events.
We only catch glimpses of the dichotomy between the lavish world Arthur creates for himself when he resurfaces from his deep dives into mythology and history. His emotional disconnect transpires from the distinction between these rich tales with a campfire-like vibe and his attempts at pushing away the continuous dread and doom of his life.
The true source of Arthur’s problems remains buried in his psyche and it’s this lack of a true explanation that makes Fairey’s character universal. We might not know what Arthur’s day-to-day life entailed prior to his breakdown or how he got to this point, but we learn how he goes forward.
The Sun, the Mountain, and Me is an equally dark and vibrant look at men’s mental health, tactfully showing the path to recovery for those who need it. The moral of the story is that more of the male population should have an Ethan in their lives.
The Sun, the Mountain, and Me runs at the Union Theatre until 6 August.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing issues similar to Arthur’s, you can find some help below. And I f you see someone struggling, be the Ethan in their life.
Samaritans: call 116 123 or email email@example.com