Theatre Review: I love you Mum – I promise I won’t die. A production by Oasis Youth Theatre  

A verbatim play written by Mark Wheeller using the testimonies of Daniel Spargo-Mabbs’ friends and family. Premiere performance at The BRIT School, Tuesday 29th March 2016

In May 1997 Daniel Spargo-Mabbs was born. His parents, like every parent wondered what he will achieve, what job will he do? In January 2014 I was pregnant and my whole world was going to change; just 30 miles away Fiona and Tim Spargo-Mabbs’ world was about to change dramatically too their son, Daniel, died on January 20th 2014. You shouldn’t have your children go before you. How do you cope with something so tragic? Fiona and Tim have done more than cope they have set up a foundation in Daniel’s name ‘The Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation’ ( and over the last 18 months they have worked with playwright Mark Wheeller to have Daniel’s story turned into a verbatim play as a performance to educate young people – they want the production to tour schools so that ‘many good things can come from this very bad thing.’ This play has a message much bigger than the assumption ‘drugs are bad’ it shows the power of friendship, trust, family and love and how one person’s actions can have dire consequences on all of those.

Normally when you watch a play the actual characters who are being ‘performed’ aren’t there. I was sitting in the same row as the people who were being re-created on stage and it was an unusual experience. Not only was this performance re-telling something very upsetting it was being re-told from over 300,000 words that all those audience members had said. The cast, from Oasis Youth Theatre worked as an amazing ensemble but stand out performances came from Lewis Evans and Natasha Thomas who took on the roles of Dan’s best friend and Dan’s mum respectively with such ease. Having Mark Wheeller’s interviewer words written into the script gives as a clever narration that helpfully shaped the dialogue into a narrative helping the audience follow the story. The set was simple with six cubes moved around at pace to create new scenes and also used in slow motion during the opening rave scene to great effect; flying around the stage with the chemical formula for MDMA projected upstage certainly marked the moment. The upstage screens also projected text message conversations and photographs of Dan throughout which disintegrated into flying sycamore seeds – symbolic of growing goodness from such sadness. Although the play revolves around Dan he has no lines and he is imaginatively represented throughout by a blue zip-hoodie that is sometimes worn by the 15-strong cast who play him in turn.

I love you Mum and I promise I won’t die is intended to be performed as two separate one act plays, but I feel it works just as well, if not better, as a two act play. At the end of such an amazing performance you would typically expect a standing ovation, but this was so emotionally draining you felt too numb to stand and on reflection that is more fitting than bursting into rapturous applause.

For anyone who recalls the 1990’s story of Leah Betts and the frankly devastating photograph of her splashed all over the newspaper Daniel is sadly the 21st century reminder that drugs still destroy lives and as members of society we still need to drum home the message but this time it isn’t with a headline life support photograph it’s in the form of this wonderful play – get it into your local community now!

Review by Holly Barradell