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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Newbury Dramatic Society - Whose Life is it Anyway?

24th to 27th November 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Strong cast an advantage in a tricky production

Newbury Dramatic Society: Whose Life is it Anyway?, at The Watermill, from Wednesday, November 24th to Saturday November 27th

The difficult moral and legal issues of whether hospitals can be forced by parents to keep children alive have been in the public eye recently. Brian Clark’s play, written in the 1970s, looks at it from another angle: can a hospital force an adult patient to stay alive against his wishes?

Ken, paralysed from the neck down in a road accident, is having difficulty in coming to terms with his condition. Looking at the quality of life that he can expect, he concludes that he is better off dead, but the hospital will not accede to his wishes. In the end, a court of law finds in his favour and he is allowed to die with dignity.

A serious subject, then, that needs skilful acting and directing to succeed, and, by and large, Newbury Dramatic Society achieved it.

The central part of Ken is a demanding one; particularly so because the actor can’t move his body at all. Paul Firman managed to convey Ken’s wit and charm, as well as his anger and frustration. His delivery was sometimes a bit over-formal, but his interaction with the other characters, particularly Dr Scott, was poignant.

Sylvia Knight was an efficient and experienced Sister Anderson, patronising her patient without realising it. As Nurse Sadler, Fenella Newton was caring and concerned, and added some humour in her interactions with John the porter, a good performance from David Slade as Jack-the-lad.

Zandra Forder and Roger Burdett were very good as the two main hospital doctors, Scott and Emerson: the one concerned with the moral aspects and fighting for Ken’s freedom, and the other with his entrenched views of responsibility and patient care.

Trevor Pitman was convincing as Ken’s solicitor, carrying through his fight for his client’s rights, and Mike Cole gave the level of detached disdain that you might expect from the hospital psychiatrist. Colin Benham hit just the right note as the judge, and Carolann Timms, Daphne Outwin and Mike Brook completed a strong cast.

Paul Farrell’s simple set was effective without being distracting. Paul Farrell was also the director, and made a good job of a tricky production that needed just a little more fire at times.