An Instinct for Kindness

Four Stars


In November 2010 Chris Larner’s ex-wife Allyson at the age of 60 died in the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Allyson in the final few years of her life was trapped in a living hell of constant pain, immobility and loss of toilet control resulting from MS contracted at the age of 33. Present at her assisted suicide were Chris and Vivienne, Allyson’s sister, who fortuitously in the circumstances was a nurse. Not present was George, Chris and Allyson’s son, who right up until the day his mother died did not want her to end her life.

Chris Larner’s solo performance play traces the events leading up to Allyson’s death. This family tragedy encapsulates in a very personal and direct way the contrasting viewpoints around this emotive issue. As such, it provides spellbinding and thought provoking theatre. Despite the play’s serious content, he takes every opportunity to introduce ironic humour and this avoids over-sentimentality. His description of the process leading to the final journey to Switzerland revealed that it is not easy or cheap to take the assisted suicide route.

He subtly poses questions as to how the establishment as represented by Government and Social Services is really in denial that there is a problem in relation to the terminally ill and, as a consequence, we can deduce for ourselves that there needs to be a proper debate in clarifying the law in relation to suicide.

It is a frightening prospect for us all to contemplate that if we ever reached Allyson’s condition and contemplated suicide and, despite the provision of careers, the solution from Social Services would be counselling. In the years ahead with cutbacks planned, what provisions for the terminally ill will be provided?

Reviewed by Ben

Pleasance Dome – Jackdome; 23

3 to 29 August 2011(not10, 17)

16.10 to 17.20

Fringe Programme Page Number: 271


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