Has anyone the right to decide to die? Heather Neill reports on the moral dilemmas raised in Brian Clark's updated production
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
By Brian Clark The Comedy Theatre, Panton Street, London Tel: 0870 060 6637 www.theambassadors.comcomedyinfo www.whoselifetheplay.com
Claire is a clever, witty woman, until recently a sculptor, who has been involved in a serious road accident. She is paralysed from the neck down.
The action of the play takes place in her hospital ward and concerns her relationships with those around her and her determination to end her life.
Despite the subject matter the piece is often very funny. Director Peter Hall says that "the subject remains disturbing: what is it that makes life worth living? People go (to the play) because they want to think, argue and discuss, but it's the comedy that makes them go on the ride. In a way, the more you laugh, the more disturbing it is. It opens you up to being affected."
Hall says putting a woman at the centre "makes it richer, introducing the matriarchal and creative. The loss of this beautiful creature who makes beautiful things is enormously tragic".
Claire has a vivid imagination and a quick brain, but it is no accident that Clark has made her a sculptor, someone whose creativity is expressed by a combination of imagination and physical manipulation. "The attraction between Claire and the young doctor, Scott, is only hinted at," says Hall, "but he represents the positive idea that she can get something out of life because of her mind. She thinks that without the physical side, life is not worth living." Hall adds, "there is no sentimentality in the play".
This is especially clear in the character of John, the 20-year-old black orderly, with whom Claire enjoys bantering exchanges. There is nothing cruel about him, but, as Hall says, "he thinks life is to be lived and it's tough on those who've had their turn. His attitude is clear-eyed and slightly disturbing".
Kim Cattrall is to play Claire as an American which allows Clark to hint, as Hall says, "at a culture clash, the division of the pond".The play was updated before Christopher Reeve's death. "We need him there in some sense - he did so much," says Hall.
Until April 30