According to Chris Larner, we all have an instinct for kindness, an instinct that impels us to reach out to those in suffering, to share their pain and loss.
I would hope that that’s true, of myself as much as anyone else, but I’m not sure that mine is developed enough to have done what Larner did. The play, which he wrote and performs, is inspired by his true-life experience of assisting his ex-wife Allyson, a long-term multiple sclerosis sufferer, to commit suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland last year.
The story is simply told, without sentimentality or artifice. A straight-back chair, only occasionally sat on during director Hannah Eidenow’s far-from-static production, is the sole prop. Larner takes us back and forward in time, from when he and Allyson first fell in love, through the birth of their son, the diagnosis of her condition and her physical decline, while also revealing the bureaucratic and legal necessities behind euthanasia.
An Instinct for Kindness raises profound questions – about life, death, love and much more – but it doesn’t even pretend to answer them. You leave, slightly stunned, and wondering: what would I do in Chris’ situation? Or in Allyson's?