Not many writers of a stage musical would attempt to explore deeply contentious and troubling issues of the day. Big issues don't really lend themselves to up beat song and dance, and most audiences don't usually find themselves clapping along to show tunes with a serious edge. I say usually, but then most musicals aren't Assisted Suicide, The Musical and most people aren't writer, actor and performer Liz Carr, the creator and star of the show.
I feel I should admit I have campaigned against assisted suicide before I go any further, so I was on the side of the stance of Liz's musical. With that in mind I can't really dissect the political agenda of the piece, other than to say it isn't very often that this side of the debate gets aired in entertainment. As the show points out so well, we have had a myriad films, books and dramas extolling the pro arguments for assisted suicide but the voices of opposition rarely gain such coverage. It's why this work is of such importance. Sure it isn't an unbiased piece, but then many would say the same of Me Before You and others in it's ilk. This is a show holds a mirror up to the various arguments in favour of assisted suicide and answers them, with a song.
I am sure that some will find the approach ill advised or even disrespectful, singing songs about death, poking fun at concepts of dignity and using entertainment as a medium for serious debate, but I wonder if that might be because Liz Carr has created a show that does truthfully give the public access to the reasons why so many are against assisted suicide in a manner that is hugely fun and enjoyable. I am sure that many of those who actively campaign in favour of assisted suicide are so vocally against this show mostly because it is so successful as a musical, albeit it one that has a serious reason to be.
But enough of serious stuff, what's the show like. The term roller-coaster is used a lot by us reviewers, but AS, The Musical is just that. An exciting, fun packed, laughter filled roller-coaster of a show. I could tell you all about the show, scene by scene but to be honest I'd hate to spoil it for you. Personal highlights were Liz's duet with the Pope, the brain storming of the media team, taken from a real incident, that created the term "dignicide" and a romantic number based around the concept that no one wants to be disabled sung while Liz sits bemused in her wheelchair. Vital to the show is Liz Carr, whose wit, charm and talent invigorates every moment. Alongside Liz, the rest of the cast equal her skill and passion with beautiful voices and comedy timing. I really feel that Assisted Suicide, The Musical would be a major hit on the West End.
As the show came to its end, I found myself welling up. Not with tears of sadness but with relief. I have spent many years trying to get across arguments around why society needs to hold fire on moves to legalise assisted suicide, and to start a more even handed debate on such an emotional subject, and it is very draining. Every time I have to battle to be heard or accused of being callous or not understanding what suffering is like, I die a little inside. I know I have to keep speaking out, but it hurts to know I have to. To see every one of the reasons and arguments on stage, in a medium that captivates and entertains was joyous.
Not only is Assisted Suicide, The Musical a great night out, it's essential for anyone passionate about the issue of assisted suicide, on either side. It won't solve the debate, but it will make you laugh, sing and clap along, hopefully leaving a little wiser. You might not agree with any of it, but you won't be able to deny the passion or the good heart behind the show. You'll also find yourself whistling the tunes for days.
Photos by permission