Theatre: A Good Death, an Appreciation

Posted by Wayves volunteer 2015-01-16

By Bethana Sullivan

A Good Death by Kim Parkhill
Directed by Garry Williams
Presented by DaPoPo Theatre

Entering into the theatre was a moment of awareness, "What the hell am I doing here? Am I ready to engage in this particular topic?" I had no answer beyond putting one foot forward and then the other, remembering all my rants about the cultural dead and dying norms held dear by our Canadian community.

Kim Parkhill's new play, A Good Death, is truly an opportunity  to open up to the clarity and the muddiness of the process of dying, and becoming dead. The word euthanasia has been used in regards to the play's content but I think it is much more than that. The nature of relationship, the movement of shifts and changes, the ongoing living while dying, are just a few slices of the whole.

A Good Death is a playful intermix of seriousness, childish delight, adult attempts to marry the excitement of discovery with the everyday realities of commitments and relationships. At its heart it strives to give voice to the disparate interplay of the needs and wants of the 'I and Thou' relationship.  A question here is, can an institution, in this case, the medical community, be considered  to have the potential for an 'I-thou' relationship?  And I come down on the side of yes, as each institution is made up of the same people that we see in other relational dynamics or as Buber argues we can interact with the world in its whole being.

The play offers us, in dramatic fashion, an experience of moving from an 'I-It relationship, which is about analyzing and describing the arguments for and against 'a good death' to a felt sense of the chaos and embodiment of a lived experience of coming to something new.

The author moves us to the level of universality, to the dilemma of the everyperson through the use of generic names for characters: Woman, Lover, Friend, Parent, Doctor.  In group work there is a saying that the group is only as strong as its weakest member, as rich as its poorest member, as healthy as it sickest member-you get the point. So if Woman wants a good death than how does the group and the individual find the ways and means to do this for the "I" and for the "Thou". 

The Burberian philosophical ideal is about each of us being part of the relational process towards truth, towards unity, towards trust and love. And in doing so a solution will emerge.

The role of the Doctor at first seems to be the most significant voice, politically and legally, but ultimately becomes a quiet, more human portrayal of the dilemma between personal and professional. 

This play has moments of laughter, elements of suspense, questions of integrity and issues of legality but mostly it takes us on a journey of discovery with all its Campbell-like challenges, successes, wounds and gifts.

A Good Death brings to the fore the dialogical expression of how we move between being the subject and the object. It invites the use of philosophical terms (which underpin all our choices in life) to understand its nature and purpose. The playwright has done a fine job, one worth seeing.

This play in its strengths and weaknesses, mirroring often our human frailties, offers us a doorway, an invitation and a choice. And maybe you too will take that uncertain step into the future.

There are four more performances; do go, engage in this dialogic gem. 

Editor's Note: A Good Death runs until 2 PM this Sunday, January 18. You can purchase tickets through the Neptune Theatre Box Office.

Bethana Sullivan is a frequent contributor to Wayves.

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