Even award-winning director Hannah Eidinow and the good services of the popular Seabright productions didn’t make this pill sweeter. So I was much surprised that the theatre was almost full; there are more masochists in London than I had anticipated. Mind you, they all popped up out of nowhere at the last minute, while I had been propping up the bar for some Dutch courage in the company of three others. We don’t do talk about death or politics in England, do we. But I soon realized I need not have worried. The drama, based on Larner’s own life, was so well thought out, so cleverly constructed, that we got to know an interesting person, his wife Allyson, and not 'a suicide'.
The text let us wander with him into their past, and get to know this stubborn, gifted Northern woman, who was an actor and a teacher, and who had suffered MS for many years before finally being courageous enough to put an end to her suffering. We laughed at her mania for tidiness, and enjoyed the mockery of the tidy Switzerland that her final journey brought her to. We smiled in amazement at all the strange protocols involved in preparing for this death, as well as the cost involved, we shared their indignation at the callousness of English notaries, shackled by present law. We were baffled by the English codex that allows suicide, but makes 'aiding and abetting' suicide punishable by jail. We cringed at the indignities of MS, and our hearts went out to the son who didn't want his Mum to die.
We got involved; Allyson touched out hearts. The fine balance between helpless laughter at the absurdities and deep sorrow for the pain people must go through are the human feelings are the centre of this play. It does not really talk about death: it talks about love, about loving kindness.
Larner gives us a chance to open our eyes wide to see where we can go if we want to learn how to love deeply. Not an easy piece. Serious illness, Dignitas, moral dilemmas, profound kindness and love. Where else in the West End is that on offer?