A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer
by Bryony Kimmings
Directed by Kirsty Housley
Seymour Centre York Theatre until March 29
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
“Different”. “Unique”. “One-of-a-kind”. “Never seen before”. These adjectives have been used to describe some of the thousands of theatrical productions that I’ve reviewed, and this time, the description is deserved more than any other production.
Is A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer a play? Or group therapy? Or a musical? Or a catharsis? Perhaps it’s all of them.
It sometimes feels appropriate not to read the media release before attending a production. This play opens with the playwright, who comes across as more of a writer than an actor, ruminating over her creation. At first it seems like an introspective, overly-analytical, self-indulgent examination of her motivation for penning, or typing, such a work, and the relevance of this part gradually becomes clear.
Addressing the subject of cancer can be awkward at the best of times, and laying it bare on the theatrical stage is gutsy, confrontational and hugely interesting.
One of the cast members is a breast cancer survivor, and while I’m tempted to elaborate on the many aspects of A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer, I would rather just encourage you to see this amazing production.
There are numerous surprises and it would be a shame to pre-empt your experience. If you’re a regular theatre-goer, you’re in for something the likes of which you probably haven’t seen before. All I will say is that, towards the end of the show, there is a prepared piece of audience participation and also supported, voluntary audience participation, both of which are emotionally moving and powerful. On opening night, many audience members left the auditorium in tears, so affected were they.
Each theatrical production provides us with an experience, and A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer ramps up that definition.
Prepare yourself for the unexpected.