The Anatomy of Melancholy (Birmingham)
Birmingham based Stan's Cafe present their version of the first ever self-help book, The Anatomy of Melancholy, at the Birmingham Rep
Based on "the greatest book ever written", The Anatomy of Melancholy provides the perfect cure to the ailment: laughter. Robert Burton's "self-help manual", written nearly 400 years ago, addresses the causes, struggles and cures of melancholy, staying true to the language but relating greatly to the audience too.
Burton wrote, "I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy", and so he edited and re-edited his book again and again to share and reveal where melancholy had wounded him in his lifetime. This could not have been made any clearer by the four actors (Gerard Bell, Rochi Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens), who each take on a character that splits the human psyche into identifiable sections and represent Burton's thoughts as he writes his manual. With such a variety of cures on offer, their audiences may never be downhearted again.
The language makes the play a bit hard to engage with at first, but it is worth trying to push past that and allow your mind to relax in order to enjoy the content. By the interval it appeared that the audience's brains had warmed up and they were more responsive, having overcome the melancholy of grappling with the old English barrier.
Stan's Café, a company of artists who perform in various disciplines, were presented with the challenge of adapting this dated book and relating its wisdom on the stage. A challenge achieved and an audience cured.
- Tal Fox