By Joana Simmons
From turning dirty thirty, to having a poke at their nationality, to everything in between, this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival has artists with all sorts of reasons to put on a show. In Assisted Suicide, The Musical, the motive for putting on the show here is a very important one. Described as “a TeD Talk with show tunes” UK’s disability rights campaigner and actor Liz Carr (Clarissa Mullery in the BBC’s Silent Witness) and her cast of upbeat cheesy chorus members sing, dance and shed light on what can be seen as a dark issue, especially at this time as our Victorian Premier pushing for a parliamentary conscience vote on euthanasia this year.
Opening with a classic kick-line chorus number “Choosing Choice”, we are warmed up for a night of musical messages and edgy issues. Liz Carr graces the stage in her glitter-filled hair and sparkly boots and is engaging and relaxed. She speaks with eloquence and passion, peppering facts with comedy, piece by piece revealing how assisted suicide is not black and white: there is a fine line between terminally ill and disabled. We see how by making it legal will eventually mean that people like her will feel like there is an exit sign hanging over their heads. The show is humorously and well written, including some wonderfully cringe-worthy puns and catchy tunes.
Many theatrical elements were used to make this discussion entertaining and compelling. Carr and director Mark Whitelaw have got in our faces and pushed us to think harder. The set is simple and effective, and space used well by all the cast. The choreography and singing is relatively basic: initally I was unsure if the chorus were meant to be taking the mickey or just giving a tacky delivery, but as the show went on there were some standout moments that left us chortling, such as the marking meeting meeting to ‘jazz up’ the idea of euthenasia with a new brandname, or the raunchy number to make end-of-life care more appealing (“Palliative Claire”). Composer Ian Hill’s music follows the famous showtune formula that we love, and the sound was good as expected in a venue like Malthouse. The lighting however was not as coherent, with some cast members being in half darkness or cues being missed the night I attended.
Amazing work and thought has gone into this show to deliver a complex and controversial subject in a comedic and highly digestible way. It’s meaty, it’s memorable, and sometimes it melts your heart. My eyes were opened and shows like this remind us how powerful theatre can be. If you are looking for something to sink your teeth into this comedy festival, or even have a nibble and then think a little; this is the show for you.
Assisted Suicide, The Musical
30th March- 9th April
Beckett Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse
$17.50 – $25’