Good Death - Edinburgh 2011
Aug 14, 2011
One of the charms of Edinburgh is the potential to find genius in unlikely places. Good Death, a verbatim play about Doctor Kevorkian and the debate on euthanasia, is just such an occasion: a play about death that deserves an extremely long life.
This is a masterpiece, performed to perfection by 14 students from Western Michigan University (on whose research it is based) and directed with understatement, precision and flair by Joan Herrington. Aided considerably by Matthew A Knewston’s lighting and the Craig Armstrong-influenced music by Victoria Blade and Crystal Lucas Perry, the heavy documentary one might expect becomes a stunning theatrical event.
Kevorkian, the “reluctant celebrity” advocate for euthanasia (superbly played by Ethan Hedeen) is the initial focus. “I can’t go on living a hypocritical life where I can’t do what I know is right” he says at one of his trials. The play broadens to consider death itself, and the merits (or otherwise) of euthanasia through individual stories, two of which had tears rolling down my face. Someone describes Kevorkian’s personality as “quiet, calm, interested and understanding”. The same must be said for the terrific ensemble of stars, with Cornelius D Davidson and Adam Jeffrey Pasen the first among equals.
This is the most compelling, brilliantly executed verbatim drama since The Laramie Project a decade ago. I don’t expect to see a better show at Edinburgh this year.