I have always understood the power of theatre to make people question their beliefs. In 1994, as a young Drama teacher, a group of my Year 11 students created an examination piece exploring the murder of a 3 year old boy, Jamie Bulger. He had been abducted, tortured and murdered by two 11 year old boys just over a year earlier in March 1993. The case, not surprisingly, caused outrage across the UK. The boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were found guilty of the murder, were roundly vilified, labelled as evil.
My students wanted to explore the case, but from the perspective of Venables and Thompson, as they wanted to understand what circumstances led them to commit such a horrific crime. The performance was watched by the Chair of the School Governors, who was a magistrate. He wrote to the students after the performance, saying that he had never considered what they had explored, having only felt revulsion for the murderers. The play made him question his own judgement so much that he didn’t sit in court for a number of weeks after watching the students’ performance.
I was made to think about this the other day when I listened to an interview with Chris Larner . In November 2010, he had accompanied his chronically ill ex-wife to Switzerland’s Dignitas clinic. He came home with an empty wheelchair and a story to tell. Consequently he wrote (and performed in) An Instinct for Kindness, a play that reflects on the circumstances, morality and humanity surrounding the journey, exploring both the profound personal implications and the wider ethical considerations of the contentious issue of legal euthanasia. The controversial play has put that debate firmly on the stage. Below is an interview with Larner and extracts from the play, as well as some reviews. Food for thought indeed.