Whose Life Is It Anyway? APS at Sherborne Studio Theatre

BRIAN Clark’s play Whose Life Is It Anyway? was first performed on television in 1972 and adapted for the stage six years later.It was controversial at the time – discussing assisted suicide but winning many awards.

Fifty years on, the climate surrounding the debate might have changed, but the questions stay the same, and the play is every bit as powerful. Martin Williams saw it as a newly qualified drama teacher, with Tom Conti in the lead, and determined to direct it one day. His day has come this week with Amateur Players of Sherborne – and it is stunningly brilliant.

There are all sorts of challenges facing anyone producing the play. The main character is in bed, moving only his head, from start to finish. Multiple scenes happen almost simultaneously. Specialised props are required. All this in addition to the complex ethical, medical and legal questions that must be addressed.

APS has assembled an extraordinary cast to perform this very demanding play, and on the opening night every member of the audience watched with rapt attention as Ken Harrison fought for the right to bring his life to an end.

Robert Brydges is a handsome, witty and charismatic man, and this is his first foray into acting – not counting a disastrous Shakespearean debacle at school. He plays the central role, a sculptor and teacher who has been critically injured in a car crash fracturing his spine and permanently paralysed from the neck down. He has been in hospital, in the care of Dr Michelle Emerson, for more than six months and has no prospect of any meaningful recovery of movement. We watch as Ken forms close relationships with nurses and doctors and an orderly, and we watch their reactions as they realise he has irrevocably decided on a course of action that must end his life.

The “hospital”, in the person of Dr Emerson, steps in, citing a legal and ethical responsibility to keep the patient alive. Ken’s legal team takes the unusual step of claiming Habeas Corpus, and the judge comes to the hospital to decide this fraught case.

In addition to the central role, there are some powerfully moving performances, notably from Sara Danesh-Pour as Dr Scott, Bev Taylor-Wade as Sister Anderson, newcomer Annalise Carter-Brown as Dr Emerson, Liam Beard as the perky John, Jessica Colson as a totally convincing barrister and Patrick Knox as the learned judge. Charlotte Berry is the delightful young nurse, with Adrian Harding stepping in at short notice as Ken’s solicitor. Every member of the cast is evidently totally committed to both the production and its important story, which is not easy watching, but still cries out to be seen and discussed as our lives become ever more dependent on technology and controlled by box-tickers.
It is on stage in Sherborne until Saturday.



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