Brighton Fringe 2013 – Is everyone sitting uncomfortably?
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a one-man examination of mortality? What’s driving theatre-makers on Brighton Fringe to tackle thorny topics such as death and disease?
It’s Friday evening and we’re in a home in Brighton’s Kemp Town listening to a quietly-spoken undertaker asking us if he can view the body. Someone’s died, you see, and he’s here to help.
As theatrical experiences go, Dead Happy is certainly unusual. But actor, writer and ordained Buddhist Simon Lovat has been pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the one-man show he is performing in audience’s living rooms.
It may sound a hard sell but actually, he says, there’s an appetite for discussing a universal yet taboo subject like death. “People have responded extremely positively; they laugh, they cry, they think. They seem to find a lot of it very funny.” The idea for the play came to him last year when, having worked in the funeral business for several years, he contracted pneumonia and came very close to death himself. “Death is the great unspoken discourse; it is hidden, kept secret and separate from us. I wanted to make a piece of theatre that breaks down this taboo.”
Far from being depressing, the play reminds us what a gift life is. “Death is the only certainty in life. What would you do differently if you really took that on board? Then do it!”
Then there’s Yvonne Newbold, whose own breast cancer inspires Coke Floats and Chemo. Diagnosed in 2012, the show builds on her blog of the same name, which set out to show that while cancer isn’t funny, she still is. Detailing the indignities and absurdities of a life-threatening illness, it also attempts to show the unexpected silver linings she’s discovered. “It’s not about cancer, it’s about how an Olympic-sized event brings out the competitor in all of us,” she says.
“Theatre offers a terrific opportunity when it comes to tackling uncomfortable subjects,” says Glenn Chandler. “You can put a book down or turn off a TV but you can’t switch off when you’re in an auditorium.”
Chandler, creator of Taggart, delves into the private correspondences of some of the UK’s most notorious criminals in his show Killers, from Moors murderer Ian Brady to ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Peter Sutcliffe, whose letters describe how he ‘doesn’t like to hurt women’. He hopes the play will shine a light onto the relationships that develop between ordinary members of the public and the murderers they choose to write to. “Why do they do it? What inner need does it satisfy? And how does a ‘monster’, locked away for life relate to their curiosity and to those people who become pen friends?’
Chandler doesn’t deny it’s a dark subject – but isn’t that exactly why it’s interesting?
Brighton Fringe 2013 dates: 4 May – 2 June
Full programme available on www.brightonfringe.orgTagged in: Brighton Fringe
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