Assisted Suicide the Musical
GDLP x HP Parmley
Emoji summary: ✨🕳🚨
GDLP: Zarina couldn’t make it to Assisted Suicide the Musical so I brought HP instead - this dreamy fire girl friend I love (like if your friends were warm treasure pieces in your hands). right she should be there. HP’s brother is paralysed, and she holds that in her hands very carefully. I was thinking about the sensitivity and pressure of disability ethics, of the title of this show, and then ten minutes in we looked at each other wide-eyed with nervous smiles when we realised this show wasn’t in favour - it emphatically and musically derided the entire act of assisted suicide. and it was not coy about it. well i never
and now I do. the politic is this: assisted suicide is seen as a way to fix the problems of both disability and terminal illness - painted with the same brush. ’It’s better to be dead than disabled,’ better to be dead than facing a terminal illness, because of the loss of autonomy. (pain is much lower on the list for cited reasons for assisted suicide, i didn’t know this). thus, assisted suicide is a threat to disabled people, to their day to day, their value, their identity.
Art is rarely so pointed and challenging. I respect the bravery and crudeness of polemic. so there’s that. but the deliveryyyyyy. forceful decorated irony. the brilliant Liz Carr comes on stage and says, ‘Welcome to my TED talk with show tunes.’ exactly that. a documentary with bells on, last rites with autotune. It was v v funny. Carr duet with the Pope. The type of humour your laugh reaches before your head (and then your head is torn with you finding it funny, ‘cause this is no laughing matter! people’s lives are at stake!). And that was the pattern, like laugh-out-loud and then wait, I feel sick and dark. Pulling us up and down, falling out of the theatre like a tumble dryer. This great awkwardness and necessary discomfort put me somehow at ease. Like I had new confidence in my own ethics, that I didn’t want any grey doubt, like I wanted to have opinions
HP: yah totally. A super real subject for me to approach, so thank god it was funny (humour is such a powerful tool for dealing with these indescribably shitty situations). Ive gotta say, I had ZERO idea that this would be a play against assisted suicide! I was in shock- and the reason we were all in shock is the core of the problem- every singe person i know, including myself, would be like, ‘yah of course that should be legal, its humane!’ (its kind of scary lately how we are all adopting politics through reading the first line of a think piece, or scrolling though our depressing news-feeds, but thats for another review…).
And it is disguised into this left wing liberal thing of choice. And its not like she was pushing for people suffering to not get the right care/help* but it was more about this idea of how seedy choice is, like how we *choose* between adidas or nike, or whatever else brand, we aren’t really choosing, u get me, something is pre placed. And same goes for assisted suicide, the choice is there and its advertised so strongly as being the best option for the suffering and disabled.
As a society its easier to deal with death than disability. And don’t get me wrong, there are some people in extreme situations of suffering which makes this part of the debate a grey area, but for the majority of people this *treatment* is aimed at, they are disabled. From the day a disabled person is born, society tells them life just isn’t really worth living. The performance/ted talk/musical (i was really into its lack of category) was essentially a really entertaining form of activism not necessarily rooted in trying to change the law but trying to change public opinion.
The comedic aspect is something I really related to, its almost a necessary tool in breaking down taboo subjects. Disability in general is a subject that makes people get all weird, let alone assisted suicide. Making people laugh is essentially creating an access point into something quite raw and hard to swallow. My favourite part was when they sang “assist us to live not to die.” This really is the crux of the argument. We need to realize that bodies are made disabled by whats not accessible to them and we need to change our frame of mind around what a valued life is.
GDLP: so thank you Liz Carr and the cast and production team, thank you Shape and ArtsAdmin for commission support. thank you for political bravery and clarity. you were overpowering and incredible.