End of life dilemmas at Arundel

Gill Lambourn
Gill Lambourn
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Whose Life Is It Anyway? was a play Gill Lambourn was keen to champion with the Arundel Players.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? was a play Gill Lambourn was keen to champion with the Arundel Players.

It seems it was meant to be.

Barnham-based Gill will be directing Brian Clark’s story of a young man's fight to prove he is fit to make his own decision whether to live or die – for the Players at their Priory Playhouse base from October 24-29.

First performed in 1978, the piece remains sharply relevant with its exploration of the complex emotional and legal issues surrounding end-of-life decisions.

Gill is promising a play which will give you much to discuss afterwards – a show lightened by witty dialogue plus a dose of flirting and romance.

“When I started with Arundel, I was thinking what I would like to direct. I looked at the list of previous shows and saw that they had done it, but ages ago, in the mid-80s, probably soon after it finished in the West End – a long, long time ago.

“I put it forward to Arundel and then somebody else said to me that they had got permission to do it… and then it turned out she was moving and suggested that I might like to do it – except I am not doing the same version as she was going to do.

“It originated on TV and I know it was in the West End in the late 70s with Tom Coni. He won a Tony award for it on Broadway, and the play itself had won an Olivier award over here. And then it was made into a film in 1981 with Richard Dreyfus. I don’t know if it ever came out over here. I have never seen the film. But then in the States, it came out in a female version. They swapped this quadriplegic sculptor for, I assume, a quadriplegic sculptress.

“The other lady was going to do the female version for Arundel, but I am doing the male version. She had the script, and I read the script, and there is a bit of gallows humour, but it didn’t feel right with the female version. At the beginning, the nurse says ‘I will have Mr Harrison sitting up,” and he says “Have me! Have me!” – and that just didn’t seem right to have a woman saying it to a man…

“The starting point is here is this man in his middle 30s. He is a sculptor and he teaches at art school but he has an accident. It is not detailed, but you assume it is a car accident, and he is left a quadriplegic. He can’t do anything except move his head and think. They work really hard to keep him alive, and after six months they are discharging him from ordinary hospital, but he will have to be somewhere because he can’t possibly live at home. He decides that life is not for him and he wants to be allowed to die. He challenges the hospital by hook or by crook that is he able to make the decision. He gets the judge to come and ultimately decide… though I am not saying what happens!

“In some ways it is easy to direct. Here is this man in bed in the centre of the stage and you can’t do anything about that. Movement-wise it is pretty easy because everyone has to go up to the bed to talk to him. It is straightforward. But on the other hand, you need movement. Being able to create interesting stage pictures is a very important part of directing, and that is a big part of the challenge with this play…”

Box office: 07523 417926.

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