We chatted to Charlie Day about his show Rock Bottom, playing at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre from the 11th January.

Hi thanks so much for talking to me. Could you explain what Rock Bottom is about? So the show is based on Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he attempts to make a show by himself. The rest of the cast have left him, because they are sick of him, so he has to improvise a whole show by himself. And it doesn’t go to plan. Being left on his own he has to face his demons, but he must do this in front of an audience. He must perform his pain. 

How did the idea for the show come about? I always felt that there was more to Bottom than meets the eye. It never feels, in Midsummer’s, that he gets a chance to explain himself, or reflect on anything. He is just the clown. He goes through hell in the play, and barely gets a chance to deal with it. So this was a chance for Bottom to work through his trauma and get the last laugh.

Why did you decide the character Bottom was the best character for you to use to talk about mental health? I think one of the largest effects on mental health nowadays, especially among young people, is this feeling that we are always performing through social media. Many attempt to paint a false image of themselves, in a hope people will like them, literally ‘like’ them. With snapchat stories for example, you are essentially creating a short film of your day, which you can watch back as an audience member. Bottom felt like a physical manifestation of this problem, he can’t escape from the need to please everyone, all the time. Bottom is putting across the idea that he is happy, but in reality he needs the validation of others to be happy. The show is his journey to ‘live life without an audience, without a round of applause’.

Why do you think men are so reluctant to speak out about how they are feeling? It always feels like being vulnerable isn’t very masculine, and there is this expectation to ‘man up’ whenever you are sad. I think it is this that makes men bury their feelings. This isn’t exclusive to men but I think that it is heightened. It’s subtle, toxic masculinity at work. 

What are you looking forward to about being on stage again? I think being stuck inside for so long, people have been starved of human connection, I know I have! So, feeling that connection with an audience again is the thing I am most looking forward to about being back on stage. As interesting as zoom theatre has been, I think the buzz of being on stage can’t be replicated. 

What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?I hope people can have more open discussions about mental health, be more vulnerable with each other. Someone might look like the most confident in the room, but they could be struggling. But as well as all that, I want them to have fun, there is a lot of comedy in the show, and dances, songs, poems. Essentially, I hope people can laugh, cry a bit, and then go home and check if their mates are okay. 

By Emma Clarendon

Rock Bottom will play at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre from the 11th to the 13th January 2021.