If I was a proper reviewer – someone who tried to be objective and gave star ratings – I’d find faults with Alaska; there are lots of elements (beautifully illustrated cards, moon metaphors, dance, song, storytelling) that never quite all tie together. As something theatrical, as spectacle, it doesn’t always work. But, fuck that, who needs objectivity when the performer proper cries and it’s so genuinely moving that someone in the audience rifles through their bag to offer up a tissue?
The greatness of Alaska lies in its frankness. That isn’t to say it isn’t an hour that will rip you up a bit emotionally – it is – it is just to say that it is honest.
Cheryl has lived with depression since she was young, but there isn’t any thought as to why. There are no triggers. This is depression as unavoidable, as illness – and good god is that refreshing. There is no simple narrative structure, nothing to make this easier to handle or understand. So often we romanticise depression in our stories, but there’s none of that here. She always talks about being sick – and the cutting, the crying as symptoms – and in doing so manages to make this show un-self-involved, un-self-indulgent and completely comforting.
But while being so frank, it is also deeply personal. Cheryl sings and she dances and she has planned her own cure, and it is so warm. She is frank that her depression is sickness, but unique in how she handles it and how it affects her – and in handling it with dance and with song, she makes it just a bit beautiful.