EDINBURGH 2011: BWW Reviews: AN INSTINCT FOR KINDNESS, Pleasance Dome, Potterow, Aug 6 2011
There's something almost too intimate about a show in which a man talks about his ex-wife's terminal illness and her decision to end her life at the Swiss clinic Dignitas, but Chris Larner is engagingly honest and direct in recounting his experience.
There are no cloying eulogies, as Larner paints a witty no-nonsense picture of his relationship with Allyson, which is all the more moving for being grounded in reality. The show is tightly directed, and though obviously emotional, it isn't simply a cathartic outpouring of one man's grief. Larner gives us a straightforward account of the progression of Allyson's illness and relates the difficulties they encounter following her decision to go to the clinic.
While his anger at the 'sanctity of life' brigade is clear, Larner doesn't indulge in a rant about assisted suicide; he knows that simply recounting his ex-wife's experience -at times without sparing even the most graphic details - is enough to explain his position. He highlights his frustrating experiences with wary officialdom, and powerfully conveys Allyson's fear of being stopped by the police before she makes it to Switzerland.
Larner's dry wit surfaces at the most unlikely moments, but he never allows it to obscure the profound emotions involved, and it's almost unbearable to watch as he describes their son's reaction to Allyson's decision and the subsequent anguished phone calls to Switzerland.
Alongside the usual comedy skits and political tirades at the Fringe, this show stands out as a superb and moving exposition of the universal themes of human kindness and courage in the face of death.