Sessions at Soho Theatre
Depression is a notoriously difficult theme to tackle in any form of writing; its manifestations are multiform, and it is, by its very definition, a highly subjective issue to deal with. Sessions doesn’t quite succeed as an exploration of such feelings. Instead of ever showing us that Tunde (Joseph Black) is depressed, we are told it (save two outbursts); the larger focus is on his horrendous external circumstances, to the extent that one often wonders whether it’s really depression or if Tunde is understandably in a bad place since practically everything has gone wrong for him.
As a result, Sessions is more a wide-angled than in-depth look at depression. Black pulls it off masterfully; the play isn’t lacking in emotional punch, and one-handers are difficult enough to perform as it is, considering the entire focus is on a single person on stage. But this is a highly capable actor, switching seamlessly and believably from the comic to the more serious moments. He juxtaposes a wonderful comedic timing with an excellent sense of dramatic depth.
Just a pity, then, that depression itself isn’t really explored. Yes, Tunde’s girlfriend has left him and aborted his baby (on account of his “moods” that the audience never witness); yes, his father was cold and demanding while he grew up; yes, he lost his job. But apart from the above-mentioned two short outbursts – in which viewers get a list of symptoms that anyone could look up on Google – one never really gets a sense of what depression feels like. It remains superficial, and no matter how neat occasional moments of magic by Asaf Zohar’s sound design are, they don’t serve to replace a genuine exploration of the play’s theme.
Still, the areas that do succeed in Sessions are definitely worthy. Director Philip Morris’s production works well with atmospheric lighting by Simisola Majekodunmi, and Black’s performance as Tunde is outstanding. There’s merely a lack of real exploration of what it sets out to do, and that is just disappointing. Nevertheless, for those seeking an excellently delivered one-hander with a highly charismatic character and a bit of a character study on a man whose life is going horribly wrong, this is an engaging and thought-provoking piece.
Photo: The Other Richard
Sessions is at Soho Theatre from 24th September until 4th December 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: