In The Shadow Of The Black Dog

By Daniel Hallissey

A dark comedy about Alquist, who is having a bit of a downward spiral, as he’s convinced he’s dying. Recently single, the world uninspiring, a dead-end job and a weak relationship with his father, he relies on the moments of solace with his best friend. One day – it shatters, any tether which may have been hanging in there is lost as his best friend takes his own life. He wonders how men text friends to say that they’re lonely or where men go to grieve. 

 

The catalysts for writing IN THE SHADOW OF THE BLACK DOG are BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. My best friend died. Soon after, I became ill and was sitting in a hospital emergency room, alone and scared believing I wouldn’t have long to live. I felt unable to call anyone for support to be with me.  Months later, I was chased down by two men on a moped, wielding knives, threatening to kill me and I narrowly escaped. After the experience of these events a thought has stayed with me I haven’t been able to shift: I don’t know if I can save myself. I eventually reached out to my mates and found we were all harboring the same fears about being a man or not a good enough one.

 

This story is about confronting fear, embarrassment and pain, learning it doesn’t work if we keep avoiding the root causes and staying quiet. We can’t just put on a mask and convince ourselves everything will be OK. The way to break this cycle of hurt and suffering and to be able to move on is to be willing to ask questions, address the underlying reasons for our unhappiness and engage with others so we can better understand ourselves. Only then can a better life be possible, as we stop trying to survive each day and start to live.

In everybody's life, we will have the opportunity to save another person's life, and it can be achieved by a simple act of having a conversation.

Creative Team

Writer / Performer

Daniel Hallissey

Director

Conor Neaves

Producer

All The Pigs

Sound Designer

James Nicholson

Technician

Oliver West

Poster Design

Christopher D Clegg

Assistant Director

Laura Singleton

Set / Costume / Lighting Designer

Pete Butler

Notes

Ages 16+, Strong language, sexual references

Reviews

"With plays such as In The Shadow Of The Black Dog, we will teach ourselves one day to turn to our friends and be comfortable in asking for help when we most need it." 

Everything Theatre

"Hallissey knows how to craft a good line, whether it be a mid-coitus quip or acute observations on the codependence of life and death, and the human condition."

Auditorium Magazine

"The whole show felt like an intimate chat with your best mate. At moments, you felt like laughing and crying at the same time. A thought-provoking and exciting piece of theatre."

The Spy in the Stalls

"Visceral in performance, In The Shadow of the Black Dog is innately human in response to loss. Profoundly personal, with an important goal."

The Skinny

"The play's messages about reaching out, talking things through and not suffering in silence, ring out loud and clear. An engaging show that reveals the deeper vulnerabilities of an outwardly confident male."

London Theatre 1

"With suicide being the biggest killer of men under 50, In The Shadow Of The Black Dog, is clearly an important show."

Voice Mag 

"That pretty much was sixty minutes of perfection."

BN1 Magazine

"The honesty behind Hallissey’s words is incredibly moving: Hallissey’s play proves itself to be a raw piece of storytelling."

The Wee Review

"The emotional punches are hard and raw. Hugely committed delivery. The script is impressive and wide-ranging."

London Pub Theatres

"The show is an honest, and important, contribution to the public discourse on male mental health. A brave exercise in self-exploration, and could prove the useful conversation starter it hopes to be."

The Scottish Play

"In The Shadow of The Black Dog is an intimate, challenging piece that is not afraid to ask the questions that are often quick to be avoided."

Theatre Weekly

"In The Shadow Of The Black Dog delivers sharp characterisations with lovely delivery."

The Scotsman

Audience Feedback

@AllthePigs #intheshadowoftheblackdog was so good, go see it if you’re in edinburgh! it’s great. x

@CJHammondwriter

#InTheShadowOfTheBlackDog by @AllthePigs gives all important encouragement to men who struggle with their mental help; there's no shame in admitting it, chaps. Hard hitting words by Daniel Hallissey and skilful direction by @ConorNeaves. Go see

@SharitaOomeer

#InTheShadowOfTheBlackDog by @AllthePigs is beautifully detailed, important work focusing on male mental health. Enthralling writing & performance by Daniel Hallissey, deftly directed by the hugely talented @ConorNeaves. Go see

@SpotlightUK

#InTheShadowOfTheBlackDog by @allthepigs is a simple but powerful show exploring masculine vulnerability. We don't talk about this stuff enough. Thank you for putting it centre stage

@Bianca_Tairayne

If you're at the #edfringe check out @AllthePigs 'in the shadow of the black dog' If I was @ the fringe this year my tickets would already be booked !!!BOOK THOSE TICKETS PEOPLE

@Singlebumm

@AllthePigs 'in the shadow of the black dog' I laughed hard and cried harder and i'm still in awe the next day, so good!

@FfionJones88

Well done Danny Hallisey and @AllthePigs. That was a really heartfelt and well written piece! In the Shadow of the Black Dog at @AssemblyFest. It was lovely seeing you smile on stage with us x

Just caught the brilliant #Intheshadowoftheblackdog by @AllthePigs at @AssemblyFest. Such a great show, floored me at the end. Go see!

@TheAndrewGower

If you happen to be at the fringe and wondering what to go and see ... pop along to this! @AllthePigs

@Libby_Brodie

A thought provoking play in the current climate...@DanielHallissey asks What if what we understand to be “being a man” just doesn’t work? There was mirth, tragedy & a couple of interestingly uncomfortable moments which questioned certain gender assumptions. Congrats @AllthePigs

@guyretallack

@AllthePigs Truly excellent show “In The Shadow Of The Black Dog” @bhtse20 last night! ***** Acted and directed with imagination, contemporary theatre, talking about things that matter, moving and funny: GO SEE

If you’re visiting @edfringe check out his show #InTheShadowOfTheBlackDog @AssemblyFest by @AllthePigs. An important one-man show tackling male mental health. #MentalHealthAwareness

In The Shadow of the Black Dog by @AllthePigs @AssemblyFest is a powerful (with great humour) portrayal of male mental health issues and Male suicide. A wonderful performer takes us on a journey that must be easier to talk about

@Davefriasrobles

#InTheShadowOfTheBlackDog @AssemblyFest by @AllthePigs A brave, brutal and important one-man show tackling male suicide and mental health (don’t let that put you off! There are light-hearted moments!) #MentalHealthAwareness #malesuicide

@Rob__Hinwood

In The Shadow Of The Black Dog by @AllthePigs fantastic moving show about male mental health - open up lads #edfringe2019

Riverside Radio: Ian Barclay meets All The Pigs 

Facts about Mental Health & Male Suicide in the UK

For men under 50, suicide is the biggest cause of death. Men's Health Forum

The total cost of mental ill-health in England is estimated at £105 billion per year. Mental Health First Aid England

UK Mental Health Research Funding 2014-2017, shows that the level of mental health research funding in the UK is not meeting the scale or the impact of mental illness. MQ Mental Health Research

Mental distress was 8.1% higher in April 2020 than it was between 2017 and 2019. Public Health England

Between June 2017 and May 2018, 23,686 mental health staff left the NHS, equivalent to an eighth of the total workforce in mental health. By the end of June 2018, one in ten mental health positions were unfilled, and net recruitment of mental health nurses is getting worse. TUC Mental Health Funding Report

Antidepressant prescription has almost doubled from 36 million in 2008 to 71 million in 2018. NHS Digital

People who identify as LGBT+ are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, and attempt suicide, than those who do not identify as LGBT+. Mental Health First Aid England

The rate of deaths among under 25s has increased by 23.7%, reaching 730 deaths. Samaritans

Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018/19 were among men, which has been the case since the mid-1990s. Office for National Statistics

1 in 3 adult mental health conditions relate directly to adverse childhood experiences. Young Minds

71% of people have experienced symptoms of mental ill-health. Opinium Research for Bupa UK 2019

13–16% of older people in England have severe depression and up to 50% of older people in residential care. National Mental Health UK

Have a mental health problem can make it hard to get suitable insurance cover. You could be assessed as a 'high risk' customer (meaning that the provider believes they are more likely to have to pay out money on a claim) and refused cover or charged a higher premium. This can happen even if you had a mental health problem in the past but are now recovered. MIND

51.6% of people aged 16-34 who are suicidal don't seek support. Mental Health First Aid England

Men account for 4 times the number of suicides compared to women. Depression is one of the leading risk factors for suicide. World Health Organization

Psychiatrists see alarming rise in patients needing urgent and emergency care and forecast a 'tsunami' of mental illness. Royal College of Psychiatrists - May 2020

Substantial investment is needed to avert a mental health crisis. World Health Organization

The cost of lost employment, currently estimated to be £26.1 billion, is projected to increase by 7.7 per cent to £28.1 billion by 2026. This confirms the major adverse economic impact of poor mental health, which currently outstrips the direct NHS and social care service costs of supporting people with mental disorders. The King's Fund

People requiring support and treatment for their mental health are at risk of not getting the care they need and their conditions deteriorating due to increased demand brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and constraints in what services can deliver. NHS Confederation

Industry Feedback on the Script

“I really enjoyed ‘In the Shadow of the Black Dog’ and found it dark, stylish, funny and it’s consistently interesting and entertaining”

Owen Lewis, Director

“You kept the drama moving swiftly and the dialogue was really readable.  You’ve written a deeply flawed, but charismatic central character.”

Gillian Greer, Senior Reader, National Theatre

"Really engaging. There were a few one-liners/turns of phrase that had me laughing, and I liked the way you deferred the action, and emotional pay off enough for the events to feel surprising as they came up."

John O'Donovan, Nick Hern Books

"The writing throughout has a raw, emotional undercurrent offset by a comic impulse that frequently finds expression in self-deprecation. This is typical of an instinct to sniff out moments of pathos and explore this man’s anguish with a combination of severity and levity."

BBC Writersroom

This is a very interesting stream of consciousness that is both humorous and incredibly dark. We loved how this piece grapples with huge themes around suicide and depression while incorporating lightness and humour as well as the characters’ humanity.

Ifrah Ismail and Deirdre O’Halloran, Bush Theatre

“The script is brilliant. Intelligent writing. Great character. Well structured. It’s a strong story that raises important issues”

Annabel Bolton, Director

“The story is very moving and had my heart racing at points”

Hannah Tookey, Producer

“Funny, honest and really moving.”

Francis Grin, Playwrite

“Funny, engaging, raw, brutally honest and a piece that has great potential as it is so relevant and current.”

Belinda Lang, Actress and Director

“The writing is clever, witty and develops at a good pace. The situations are in turns moving and entertaining, created through an accomplished voice. You have created an entirely relatable, fully fleshed-out and distinct voice in your central character of Alquist. His real but unusual quirks make him feel very three-dimensional and completely human. Because he is so flawed it is incredibly easy to engage with the character for the entirety of the monologue. This is no mean feat! You tackle the subject matter with warmth, compassion, and complete understanding. It never feels laboured, another reason why the story is so compelling. I think this character is absolutely one we should be putting center stage, especially given the current crisis in men's mental health.”

George Turvey and Chris Foxon, Papatango Theatre Company

“We found it impossible not to root for Alquist’s success as you fill his character with warmth, wit and a disarming sense of honesty. His narration manages to hit an emotional truth whilst also finding space for humour and optimism.”

Ellie Horne, Literary Associate, Royal Court Theatre

“Daniel is an extremely thoughtful and brave writer of intelligence and wit, with intense honesty and humour, deftly pin-pointing recognisable and topical human traits and failings. He does not shy away from revealing aspects of himself in his work and drawing on personal experience. He shows a passion, combined with logic, for the art of story-telling which I have never witnessed before and I look forward to seeing what other stories he tells in the future. A solid script. Funny, engaging, heartfelt and raw. I loved it”

Libby Brodie, Producer, Libby Brodie Productions

“Really great script, bravo.”

Greg Mosse, Writer & Director