An instinct for Kindness / Chris Larner

While Chris Larner was at Magnolia House with Michael during the Ink Festival, he spoke about this play he’d written, then, over a whisky, talked about the story he was a part of. Accompanying his ex wife Allyson to Dignitas in Switzerland.

First performed in 2011 at the Edinburgh Festival, this brilliant, bittersweet one-man show explores the circumstances, morality and humanity of a woman driven to make the ultimate decision about her life.  By turns funny and heart-breaking,  An Instinct for Kindness won a coveted Fringe First at Edinburgh, an Argus Angel at the Brighton festival, has toured both nationally and internationally, and has garnered praise from both reviewers and pundits alike.

The Cut audience was seated demurely at tables when we arrived and propped up the bar. A couple of wheel chaired people in the front row, otherwise mostly strangers to me and not the usual crowd. We were all fixed in silence throughout the hour.

Chris took all parts, brilliantly. He began with Allyson, in her chair, struggling, determined to stand and walk and failing. The story began with dancing, that was how they met. Shortly before the birth of their son, she was diagnosed with MS. She rallied, embraced all the technologies, came out of the tunnel and became an inspirational teacher, before the disease took hold finally. The tipping point, when she entered the idea of Dignitas was poignant. The details of the organisation were fascinating: of the 70% who make it through the application, only 13% actually commit. Many just join up but never use the ‘club’. The rigor is Swiss and clean and clear. Chris’s own walk with her was pragmatic and challenging. Moments of ‘what am i doing?’, mixed with unconditioned walking beside. His role as the Swiss Doctor, arriving late, was brilliant, funny and tender. (The traffic in Zurich was terrible.)

He looked exhausted coming out into the flyer at the end, eager for a roll up, gently engaging with strangers coming up to him with their back story. He must hear many.

The taboo of death, the ugly hard stuff of suffering, is rarely examined, and this one man play does that, tenderly and without entitlement. Thank you Chris.


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