When I hear the words assisted suicide my first thought does not tend to be musical theatre. Similarly, when I watch a TED Talk my first thought does not tend to be show tunes. Yet, somehow, Liz Carr’s TED Talk with show tunes, Assisted Suicide – the Musical, manages to keep all the seriousness of the subject whilst seamlessly integrating all the cheesiness associated with musicals in one of the most surreal pieces of theatre I have ever seen.
The show started with a song about choice, and choice is a key theme running through the show. What do we mean by choice? If we decide to die whose choice is it? Can we trust the choices we make? This culminated in a particularly hard hitting song where the latter question was highlighted- we all have bad days and whilst undoubtedly those bad days are worse for some people in society, can we really be trusted to make life or death decisions?
Throughout the show Liz Carr discussed her reasons for being against assisted suicide, taking many pro-assisted suicide arguments and turning them on their head in a very persuasive manner. Her very dry and slightly dark sense of humour turned what could be perceived as a lecture into something enjoyable and thought-provoking. That said, sometimes the cheese factor perhaps got a little too high and the message did occasionally get lost due in the singing and dancing, and perhaps, at these moments, the seriousness and emotiveness of the issue were overlooked.
Five other actors helped devise the show and indeed performed in it- most notably David James whose performance as the Pope was as absurd as it was hilarious, but who also spoke very movingly about his personal experiences with death. Claire Willoughby was also stood out and her solo number Palliative Claire gave what I felt to be the most convincing argument of the night. Perhaps what made all of the performances so powerful was that I could see bits of myself reflected in them. The way I think about people with severe disabilities or terminal illnesses, the language I use and the assumptions I make were reflected in their performances and also with some clever use of technology the portrayals of the media were thoroughly savaged as well. I will admit at times I was made to feel quite uncomfortable about the assumptions I have made in the past.
Going into this show I was unsure on where I stood on the issue of assisted suicide, two hours later I have a much clearer picture of the arguments and I have had a very enjoyable evening. Has the show made my opinion any clearer? The honest answer is no, because whilst the points made were extremely convincing, this show did not give a balanced argument (nor did it ever intend to do so). That said, it would probably be fair to say that I am now slightly further towards the ‘against side’ of the continuum than I was before.
Overall, Assisted Suicide: The Musical provided an entertaining, yet thought-provoking tour of the arguments against assisted suicide and led to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Review by Emily Diver
Assisted Suicide: The Musical
Wed 18 Jan 2017
Tickets £15 / £20 (concessions available)
Royal Festival Hall
London SE1 8XX
Suitable for ages 14+
This event is British Sign Language-interpreted.
Access – to book concessionary tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the ticket office.
Cast: Isaac Bernier-Doyle, Liz Carr, Gillian Dean, David James, Stephanie James, Claire Willoughby
Written by Liz Carr; Director Mark Whitelaw; Composer Ian Hill; Designer Bethany Wells; Choreographer Jane Turner; Sound Designer Tom Aspley