Bryony Kimmings captures the audience from the moment she walks on stage to kick off her musical masterpiece on cancer. This show is hard-hitting, yet sensitive. It is brutal yet touching. I have never seen anything quite like it.
A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer tells us about what Bryony discovers in trying to find out about cancer. She focusses on the language of cancer, how people talk about it and what they say to cancer sufferers. Things that at times, they probably shouldn’t. It’s presented in a very unique way and manages to have the audience laughing one minute and crying the next.
Bryony’s dry sense of humour is apparent throughout this piece, and breaks up the seriousness of its topic perfectly. At the start, she introduces herself as the writer and the narrator, she initially appears to a bystander to the story but that drastically changes as time goes on. She becomes integral to the story, she doesn’t just narrate it, she lives it. She tells us the stories of the people she met, through her eyes and through their voices in a very powerful way.
The actors on stage almost feel out of place with their singing and dancing when the show begins, but their meaning and purpose is slowly shown to us in a way that makes you wonder why you questioned their place to start with. They tell the story of the people Bryony met, using their real voices while the actors mime the words (very well), make them feel so much more real to us. That is their story and their suffering, and nobody else can tell it quite like they do.
When you first hear of a musical about cancer, I imagine most people feel slightly uneasy at the thought. Surely that can’t work. Yet in this case it does, it works perfectly. It fits seamlessly with the tone of the piece and the cleverly written lyrics provide humour and sadness in equal measures.
Bryony Kimmings is known for using non-acting cast members to tell their stories and this one is no exception. Lara Veitch tells her unimaginable tale with sheer grit and brutal honesty. Her relationship with Bryony and how they interact with each other is fascinating to watch. They habe me hooked on their every word, and you never know what is coming next.
The ending of the show is very unexpected, its left up to the audience to have the final say and to drive the message home. And that it does. This show is not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended. But as somebody who’s going to remember it for many years to come, I couldn’t recommend it enough. 5/5
Review written by Laura Purvis.
A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer is currently showing until Saturday 10th February 2018 at the Northern Stage Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…