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Living With The Lights On

Must-see: RSC actor Mark Lockyer's darkly comic account of his biopolar disorder at Warwick Arts Centre, Wed Nov 1-Sat Nov 4.

After two sell-out tours in 2016, including an extended run at the Young Vic, Mark Lockyer’s honest and often brutally funny account of his bipolar disorder opens at Warwick Arts Centre this week (Wed Nov 1-Sat Nov 4).

His 75-minute “deceptively casual” confessional monologue directed by Ramin Gray has attracted huge critical acclaim from The Times, Time Out, The Guardian and The Stage. Mark says: “The show is personal, honest, terrifying, inconsistent and hilarious, as we all are. I’m telling the story – but each and every audience member knows what is happening to me could happen to them. Illness doesn’t discriminate. We embark on a third tour because the show has touched people.”

The “riveting charismatic” RSC actor depicts his mental breakdown during a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the RSC in 1995 and the spiral that followed as manic depression took over his life. Mark says: “I’d had a very successful season with the RSC in 1993 appearing in productions of The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and The Tempest.

“I’d been commended and came second in the Ian Charleston Award for classical actors under 30, but I realised at the end of that season that things were starting to become slightly strange. I went home to my mum at end of the season in 1993, it was January and we started drinking together, and I remember very clearly that we were having vodka and tonic, and the next thing I knew was that I was shouting at her at the top of my voice and being very abusive.”

A year later, he was back at the RSC, playing Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, and roles in The Taming of the Shrew and The Cherry Orchard. While he was rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, director Adrian Noble pulled him to one side. “He told me, Mark, you’re really getting on my nerves, I’ve been rehearsing with you all day, you’ve give me eight different versions of Mercutio, for f***’s sake just go home and pick one and stay with it and rehearse that!”

It is, he says now, “a great part to play when you’re bipolar and feeling high – my imagination was firing on all cylinders.” But highs are followed by extreme lows. “I started drinking heavily and was taking great enjoyment from sticking a spanner in the works at every opportunity, including onstage.”

He ended up walking out of the show… It took him eight years to get back on his feet, including a period of homelessness. But last Summer Mark returned to the RSC playing Subtle in Polly Findlay’s production of Ben Johnson’s The Alchemist to great reviews!

Living with the Lights On will be performed at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Wed Nov 1 – Sat Nov 4, warwickartscentre, Tel: 024 7652 4524

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