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David Degiorgio chats about Watching Goldfish Suffocate

Writer and Actor David Degiorgio has penned new play ''Watching Goldfish Suffocate'' - based on his own battles with depression. We find out more.

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The cast of Watching Goldfish Suffocate
© Vertigo Theatre Productions

The play is deeply personal. Has it helped as a form of catharsis, writing it? In a way yes, just to get the thoughts and memories of that year out of my head and on to paper felt good, it felt like releasing some of it, putting some of it to bed and accepting and understanding exactly what happened. We (myself and director Craig Hepworth) did a Work in Progress Performance back in January, a one man show version so we could see what we had, it was during that single night that it felt like a cathartic experience, as it was very emotional.

When did you decide to put pen to paper and what triggered you to write about your experiences?

During my time in hospital strangely, I was not writing a play but I think it helped my treatment and recovery to write things down. Once I was out I went to see Craig, who had seen me during this period and what I was going through and presented the idea of doing it as a play, I felt I really wanted to show people about mental illness, get people talking, acting and writing is the only way I knew how to express myself. Craig was reluctant as he didn't want to see me going back to that place and worried it could be too soon, luckily we made a deal that if he saw any signs of anything going on with me he could pull the play.

Do you want to write more? What Ideas/plans have you got?

I always have ideas, some big, some small. I've written a few different scripts but have only allowed a few people to read them. Goldfish is my first outing as a writer so to answer, let's see what how the reviews read, then I'll get back to you.

Why do you think there are still so many preconceived ideas surrounding mental illness?

I'm not sure, it's strange, it's something that is so apparent in today's society but for some reason people still don't seem to understand the ins and outs of what it can do. I think celebrity and the media don't help, I also think the word ‘depressed' is thrown around so much by everybody so much, that its true meaning and the damage it can do can get lost. Both myself and Craig suffer with this and I think he will tell you as well that even amongst some close friends it does not seem to register how severe it can be, now that's not their fault it just seems like the information and representation in the public eye about it is not great

How do you think plays like this will help increase understanding?

I'm hoping the play will increase understanding as we have been brutally honest; we don't pull any punches with what happened. It shows not just the illness and its effect but how it can come about, how it could happen to anyone. I've seen plays in the past based on this subject matter but they have only touched base on it. I like to believe Goldfish is told from the heart, no shame attached, with the guy who went through it at the centre. When we did the Work in Progress night or the seminars at Bupa the feedback was amazing and touching to read and hear, so I hope we will have the same effect at Taurus bar. Ian Puleston Davies who plays Owen in Coronation Street has been a big supporter of the show, he said to us not to pull any punches, to be brutally honest, I think that's the best way to show people the truth.

What's been the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

People may think it would be reliving the very hard times in my life, but that was the easy bit, for me it had to be editing down, ‘murdering your baby' as they say. All of it is so personal so when a scene is running long and we need to trim a couple of scenes for run time it's painful. With the amount of rewrites we have done between the one- man-show version and this we could write a sequel!

How is it working with Vertigo again?

Loved every minute of it! Vertigo has always been good to me and even though one of the shows I acted in with the company (M) actually turned out to be a bad experience because that was the time my depression started to take hold I have always felt at home with them. Myself and Craig have built a very strong bond and friendship during all of this and the writing of the play, I feel we can lean on each other and understand each other as we both suffer badly with mental health. In rehearsals and meetings though we have a lot of fun. If anyone has ever been in a room with me and Craig, they will understand what we are like………hard working, full of ideas but oh my, do we love annoying the life out of each other!

If someone is expecting a downbeat tale because of the subject content, how would you persuade them to come and see it?

The play is heavy and gets very emotional, it can't not do, it was a very hard time, but I have aimed to make sure it has some moments to breathe and have some fun. Our biggest worry is that people may think it's too fast paced. The speed of Act 1 is brutal, it represents my racing mind until breaking point, Act 2 slows down as my head starts to slow down. All I will say is in what other play will you find a show within a show, reviewers feedback, people running on treadmills, the lead covered in post it notes, puppies on trampolines, scenes from Glastonbury, car insurance calls gone wrong, rehearsals, guest appearances from Google, Facebook and Jack Nicholson, gun shots, murders, crazy Doctors and actual footage from a Barry Manillow concert?……… and that's just Act one!

Watching Goldfish Suffocate is at Taurus (Manchester) from 13 - 16 August.