In today’s society with the uncertainty of Brexit, projected economy slumps and even the prolific messages we’re bombarded with from Social Media there is very little certainty in our lives. The one and only thing in life that we can all be certain of is that we WILL die. Whilst for many of us this may seem a rather somber and morbid thought, for two artists from Birmingham this is the very inspiration behind their new show.
Created in response to a provocative and unashamedly honest dialogue about death, Antonia Beck and Lucy Nicholls have written and produced The Death Show which looks to better understand society’s relationship with death and dying, and why we struggle to accept our own mortality. It is both a personal view of the subject matter, and an exploration of how we as a society can have better conversations about death and dying.
There has been a real shift in the death positivity movement in the last few years, highlighted only recently, by BBC 2’s Horizon film, We Need to Talk About Death which documented Dr. Kevin Fong’s personal journey through the moral questions about death that face the medical profession. In 2011 the ‘Death Acceptance’ collective was launched by US based author Caitlin Doughty, (previously a crematory operator, funeral director and mortician) and continues to gain momentum and profile across the world as it aims to encourage promoting more open and honest discussions about death, embracing our mortality and working towards having a good death, free of pain.
The Death Show is Beck and Nicholls’ response to that journey, presented as a live, contemporary performance that is funny, surreal, reflective, honest (and references a good dose of pop culture). Despite their mutual ‘thanataphobia’, Lucy and Antonia don’t believe that death should be seen as morbid, macabre, weird, disturbing, melancholic or most importantly unmentionable.
As part of the research and development for the show, the artists embarked on an in-depth research journey which included taking part in a celebrant training course, being artists in residence at an independent funeral directors, spending time with patients at a hospice and having numerous conversations with death and end of life care professionals as well as the general public about death and dying.
“We both had a crippling fear of death. Making the show felt like a practical and productive way of exploring where these fears came from and detoxifying them. To name the thing is to take away its power. Naming and acknowledging our fear and holding it up to the light, helped us see it better and it became less scary.”
Antonia agreed that:
“Through this project we realised how important and necessary it is for us as individuals and as a society to talk about death. It shouldn’t be a subject matter that is discussed in whispers; talking about death can be incredibly life affirming. With The Death Show, we hope that people will take up our invitation to come together to celebrate their own mortality, maybe laugh, maybe cry and ultimately bring death out of the shadows and into the light.”
The Death Show is touring nationally in 2019 and will be appearing at the Electric Theatre, Guildford on Thursday 28 February 2019. Tickets for the 7.30pm show are available by calling the Box Office on: 01483 501 200 or online at https://electric.theatre.